July 30, 2015

New York Magazine

 Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News in 2006. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News in 2006. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Amid ample confusion, one thing is clear: Fox News boss Roger Ailes is the power behind the throne for the first big Republican presidential debate.

No, it’s probably really the power in front of the debate throne.

Fox is running next week’s first debate in Cleveland and, at this point, it’s even unclear which ten candidates will be allowed on stage (or at least who’ll be the tenth and final combatant, given Fox’s ultimately poll-driven decision).

Ailes was a master of stagecraft as a GOP political operative and, fittingly, there’s been much discussion and lobbying over the format.

“Fox told campaigns this week that the candidates will be lined up onstage according to their poll numbers, with the leader in the center and the others to his left and right. That means if current numbers hold, [Donald] Trump will be in the center flanked by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.”

As for The Donald, says one unidentified campaign adviser: “There’s a lot of nervousness about where he’s going to be placed and who will be next to him.” one adviser said.

The prospect of being next to him apparently makes some nervous. What happens if he does something wacky? Or turns right to you and goes acerbic?

Bill Sammon, the network’s vice president of news, apparently has told the candidates’ camps that there won’t be opening statements. In addition, there will be a minute to respond to a moderator’s question and an extra 30 seconds to respond if you call out a rival by name.

That just might create an interesting double-edged sword for those who, in theory, want to knock down Trump, the leader in early GOP polling. Fine, go after him but run the risk of giving him even more time to dominate the scene.

There might be closing statements, he said. But maybe not, given time constraints.

“Inside Fox, the debate is generating controversy among Ailes’ senior ranks. ‘There’s total confusion about all of it. The Second Floor is making it up as they go along,'” according to an unnamed “Fox personality,” who was alluding to Ailes’ executive lair at New York headquarters.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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