Vanity Fair excerpts Zev Chafets’s biography of Roger Ailes:

For months, Roger Ailes and I had been meeting regularly at Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, at his home in Putnam County, and at public and private gatherings. In that time I got a closer look at Roger Ailes than any journalist who doesn’t work for him ever has. He is plainspoken, wryly profane, caustic, and above all competitive …

[News Corp. CEO Rupert] Murdoch often drops by Ailes’s office to joke and gossip about politics. “Roger and I have a close personal friendship,” he told me. Ailes agrees—up to a point.

“Does Rupert like me? I think so, but it doesn’t matter. When I go up to the magic room in the sky every three months, if my numbers are right, I get to live. If not, I’m killed. Our relationship isn’t about love—it’s about arithmetic. Survival means hitting your numbers. I’ve met or exceeded mine in 56 straight quarters. The reason is: I treat Rupert’s money like it is mine.” …

During the presidential campaign of 2008, candidate Barack Obama was upset by Fox News, which by then was in its sixth year of cable dominance. A sit-down was arranged with Murdoch and Ailes, who recalls that the meeting took place in a private room at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan. (White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to relate the president’s version.) Obama arrived with his aide Robert Gibbs, who seated Ailes directly across from Obama, close enough for Ailes to feel the intention was to intimidate him. He didn’t mind; in fact, he rather appreciated the stagecraft, one political professional to another.

After some pleasantries, Obama got to the point. He was concerned about the way he was being portrayed on Fox, and his real issue wasn’t the news; it was Sean Hannity, who had been battering him every night at nine (and on his radio show, which Fox doesn’t own or control). Ailes didn’t deny that Hannity was anti-Obama. He simply told the candidate not to worry about it. “Nobody who watches Sean’s going to vote for you anyway,” he said.

Zev Chafets, Vanity Fair book excerpt

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