Fox News’ Chief on Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Brian Williams’ Future (“I’d Put Him Back”) and His Own
Ailes, 74, arguably the most powerful person of the next election, opens up about Rupert Murdoch, his dislikes (Elisabeth Murdoch’s “creepy” ex-husband Matthew Freud), that MLK photo in his office and lesbian friends (“People don’t know me”), and the new field of candidates as he grows his $15 billion empire.
Roger Ailes greets me in the doorway of his second-floor office at the Fox News headquarters on Avenue of the Americas. The 74-year-old is dressed in a crisp slate gray suit with lavender necktie and pocket square combination. The suit looks new, and he holds his arms out in the universal gesture for: “What do you think?” Ailes recently has lost 30 pounds, he says, by cutting down on hamburgers and eating more roughage. On his desk is a plate of fruit and pastries, untouched, the same offerings that can be found in the network’s greenrooms.
At one point, he offers me some fruit. I explain that I’ve already had my morning ration, mango actually. He looks up, a grin spreading across his face. “Mango,” he says, “liberal fruit.”
Why, I wonder, does he consider mango liberal fruit? Because it’s from South America? He nods: “All those commies live down there.”
We talk for nearly two hours about everything from Hillary Clinton (“Do you believe that the stuff on 30,000 emails that were destroyed after the prosecutor told [her] to keep it had things on it about yoga? I don’t”), the 2016 presidential field in general (“I haven’t heard anybody in election campaigns say things that would make me run out and vote for them yet”), exiled NBC News anchor Brian Williams (“I’d put Brian back, but I’d do it the right way”), fatherhood (“It made me a coward”) and his legacy (“I don’t give a rat’s ass what the world thinks”).
As I sit across from Ailes on this Wednesday morning in early April, his eyes dart reflexively to the wall of six televisions to the left of his desk; his networks, Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and the competition, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Bloomberg. My eyes repeatedly wander to a framed photo on a shelf over his left shoulder. It is an iconic black-and-white photograph ofMartin Luther King Jr. escorting children into their newly integrated school in Grenada, Miss., in 1966.
The picture is signed by Dr. Bernice King and Dr. Alveda King, King’s daughter and niece, respectively, who attended in November the graduation ceremony for the Ailes Apprenticeship Program, a diversity education program he founded in 2004. In point of fact, though, Ailes actually knew Dr. King back in the 1960s — the two crossed paths occasionally when Ailes was a local TV producer in Philadelphia. It’s a nugget of Ailes’ ‘biography that some might find surprising.
“They certainly don’t know me,” says Ailes.
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