Remember Fox’s epic Election Night 2012 meltdown, when Karl Rove refused to believe that Obama had won? Turns out Rove was just channeling his boss.The episode quickly went viral: Rove adamantly refusing to concede that President Obama had won Ohio, and with it the election—even after his own network had called the state. Fox eventually sending Megyn Kelly to conduct an awkward on-camera interview with the network’s in-house number-crunchers, who correctly stood by the call.
But it looks like Rove may just have been channeling the views of his boss. The Loudest Voice in the Room, Gabriel Sherman’s biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, suggests that it was Ailes’ own denialism about poll data—and Mitt Romney’s chances—that guided and permeated the network’s coverage that night. The book also reports that Ailes’ first instinct, like that of many Republicans, was to blame Chris Christie for Obama’s win.
A copy of the 560-page book, due out Tuesday from Random House, was obtained by msnbc.
At 5:00 p.m., Ailes assembled his network’s election team in the second-floor conference room to discuss the night’s coverage. “Guys,” he told them,” no matter how it goes, don’t go out there looking like someone ran over your dog.” But as Fox’s exit poll team presented the numbers, Ailes came undone. “They weren’t good for Romney,” a person in the room said. “Roger started arguing about how the sample skewed toward liberals.” Ailes said, “Liberals like to share their feelings, and conservatives work, so they don’t vote until later.” Arnon Mishkin, the head of Fox’s decision desk team, told Ailes that the data accounted for a sample skew. It appeared that Romney was going to be trounced. Worse, so-called late-deciders were breaking for Obama.
“Thank you, Chris Christie,” Ailes grumbled. He was still furious that Christie had given Obama a bipartisan photo op on the New Jersey coastline after Hurricane Sandy.
“Actually, that’s not true,” Mishkin said. “We asked people that. There’s no data in the polling to suggest that Sandy hurt Romney.”
“Well, hugging the guy couldn’t help people feel good about Romney either,” Ailes countered.
Data was no substitute for what his gut told him. “Everyone left the room with the knowledge that Roger didn’t believe the polls” a participant said. His opinion would be channeled on-air later that night, with embarrassing consequences.
Sherman’s book, over three years in the making, was first obtained this week by The New York Times. It contains plenty of other unflattering allegations about the Fox News chief—including the claim that while at NBC News, he told a female producer that he’d pay her more money if he could sleep with her “whenever I want.”
Late Update, 5:06pm: Sherman reports that Ailes also had some nasty things to say about then-CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo:
Around this time , he also considered poaching CNBC star Maria Bartiromo. “Roger passed on her,” one executive involved in the talks said. “He wished she hadn’t gained so much weight. He said she went from looking like Sophia Loren to Mamma Leone.”
Bartiromo moved to Fox last November.