APZev Chafets’ look at one of the most powerful figures in the conservative movement — Fox News president Roger Ailes — was released on Tuesday.
In Roger Ailes: Off Camera, Chafets was given nearly unprecedented access to Ailes, and their discussions revealed some untold factoids about Ailes and his network. Ailes and Chafets talked about everything from Ailes’ mentorship of then-fledgling radio host Rush Limbaugh to an unlikely friendship with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who calls him the “most important Republican in the country.”
Ailes has a longstanding feud with CNN and its founder, Ted Turner, who famously compared Ailes' and Fox's rise to that of Hitler.
'I wouldn't say he wants everyone over there dead, but it's close,' Fox anchor Shep Smith told Chafets of Ailes' view toward CNN.
Chafets also detailed the scene at Ailes' 72nd birthday last May, a night that saw host Sean Hannity's show outpace CNN's Piers Morgan's viewership by nearly 10-to-1.
'It was a victory of epic proportions,' Chafets writes, which Ailes, wife Beth and son Zac 'celebrated with a homemade birthday cake.'
Ailes and Walters have a longstanding friendship that dates back to the mid-1960s. Ailes told Chafets that they even went out for a couple dates.
'I dated Barbara a couple times, or took her out as an escort, but we never had an affair,' Ailes said. 'We probably could have at some point, but we were always married or between marriages or talking about marrying someone. We never got beyond that point. But we trusted one another, and we still do.'
Chafets detailed some behind-the-scenes angles of Obama's testy relationship with Fox News, including when Obama met Ailes at the 2009 White House Christmas party.
'Here comes the most powerful man in America,' Obama joked when he saw Ailes.
'Don't believe that bullshit, Mr. President,' Ailes replied, according to Chafets. 'I started that rumour myself.'
Ailes told Chafets that he didn't want to go to the media Christmas party, but he did so because of the opportunity to introduce his son to the President.
According to Chafets, the network's two stars never speak:
'O'Reilly and Sean Hannity don't speak, and he doesn't 'hand off' his program to Hannity at 9:00 p.m. with an introductory phrase, as is customary. He attributes this to technical difficulties, although it is a problem other anchors seem to have solved. Hannity, for his part, praises O'Reilly's talent and contribution to Fox, but concedes that he and his fellow star don't talk to each other -- quite a feat considering that the two men work on the same floor, within a hundred feet of each other's offices.'
Maddow told Chafets that Ailes is 'the most important Republican in the country.' According to Chafets, they met at the 2009 White House Christmas party and have remained close ever since.
Ailes introduced himself to Maddow -- who had only been on the air for about two years at that point -- by telling her she was 'not good yet, but you have the talent to be good.'
'I think Roger's vision is wrong,' Maddow told Chafets, 'but he's the most important Republican in the country. The party is like an old Ford Pinto, a hunk of junk, into which he has installed a jet engine.'
After Philbin retired from ABC's Live! With Regis and Kelly, Ailes said he considered offering him a job for a one-hour show on Fox News that would air on Saturday nights.
'What about Regis Philbin?' Ailes said in a meeting, according to Chafets. 'I've known Regis since 1963, and he's still a hell of a talent. Maybe we could use him on Fox News for an hour on Saturday nights, drive the ratings? Or maybe do a syndicated show with him.'
In his epilogue, Chafets hints that Ailes had something to do with Hannity's flip-flop on supporting comprehensive immigration reform not 48 hours after Obama had won re-election.
According to Chafets, Ailes' view throughout the campaign was that Republicans needed to tone down their rhetoric toward Latinos and not come across as 'heartless plutocrats or anti-Latino xenophobes.'
The day after the election, Ailes held a meeting with senior production staff where he reiterated his position.
'Barely 24 hours later, Sean Hannity -- the hardest of hard-liners on illegal immigration -- would experience a change of heart, or as he put it, as evolution in his thinking,' Chafets writes.
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