Details from a long-awaited biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes appeared Tuesday. And the network’s furious pushback has already begun.
The Loudest Voice in the Room, by New York magazine contributing editor Gabriel Sherman, is 614 pages long and was more than three years in the works. Among its most incendiary charges are that Ailes once offered a female producer a higher salary if she would have sex with him, that he used an anti-semitic slur about a rival, and that he disparaged Fox News hosts.
The New York Times obtained a copy of the book, which is due out Jan. 21 and is being published by Random House.
In a statement to the Times, a Fox News spokeswoman called those charges “false,” and added: “While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.”
Ailes, a former Republican political operative, himself echoed that line in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday. “What’s new is that Random House refused to fact check the content with me or Fox News,” he said. “That tells you everything you need to know about this book and its agenda.”
In response, Sherman told Politico: “A team of two fact-checkers spent more than 2,000 hours vetting the manuscript before publication. Roger Ailes declined every request to discuss the reporting with me.”
In fact, the effort to discredit the book has been underway for a while. As its publication date has approached, numerous people connected to the conservative network have publicly trashed Sherman. Sean Hannity, one of the network’s stars, called Sherman a “phony journalist” on Twitter.
Ailes did not cooperate with the book, but he did sit down for another biographer, Zev Chafets, whose Roger Ailes: Off Camera, a mostly flattering portrait, was published last year. Some saw Ailes’ cooperation with Chafets as an effort to get out ahead of Sherman’s book.
The book is not entirely unflattering. According to the Times, it describes “Ailes’s professional ambition, his desire to influence American politics through a conservative prism, and his status as a visionary who possessed an intuitive understanding of the power of television to shape public opinion.”
Among the less positive anecdotes that Sherman reports are the following, according to theTimes:
-While at NBC in the 1980s, Ailes told television producer Randi Harrison, while negotiating her salary, that he’d give her an extra $100 per week “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want,” according to Harrison.
-Ailes referred to Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ highest-rated host, as “a book salesman with a TV show.” And Ailes called host Brian Kilmeade “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
-In 1995, still at NBC, Ailes used what the Times calls a “vulgar anti-Semitic slur” to attack a rival, David Zaslav. (Zaslav denied to Sherman and the Times that Ailes used the slur, and called Ailes a friend. A lawyer who conducted an independent investigation into the incident at the behest of NBC concluded that he believed Ailes had used the slur, Sherman reports.)
-Ailes declared ahead of the 2012 presidential election: “I want to elect the next president.”
-Before Rep. Paul Ryan was picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Ailes advised Ryan that his TV skills needed work and recommended a speech coach.
-A four-minute video that ran on Fox News at the start of the general election campaign criticizing President Obama’s policies was Ailes’ “brainchild,” Sherman reports. Fox had said at the time that Ailes was not involved in its creation.
In an excerpt from the book posted Tuesday afternon by New York magazine, Sherman reports that Ailes angered some residents of Garrison, New York, where he lives, after buying the local paper in 2008 and making radical changes.