It’s probably going to be a little tougher for Fox News to present itself as an independent news organization after its executives tried to recruit a Republican presidential candidate. Bob Woodward has this report today.
Roger Ailes, the longtime Republican media guru, founder of Fox News and its current chairman, had some advice last year for then-Gen. David H. Petraeus.
So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.
The Fox News chairman’s message was delivered to Petraeus by Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations.
That the conversation happened is not in dispute; Woodward has a recording from the meeting. McFarland told Petraeus that Ailes, a former Republican consultant, might even step down from Fox to run the national campaign, and that Fox chief Rupert Murdoch might “bankroll” Petraeus’ candidacy.
Asked for an explanation, Ailes conceded that he relayed the message through McFarland, but there’s no reason to take his candidate outreach efforts too seriously.
“It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
For the record, presidents of news organizations don’t usually make unilateral decisions about the strength of presidential candidate fields, and then take steps to improve those fields.
With Woodward, Ailes then threw McFarland under the bus, saying the Fox News analyst he used to reach out to Petraeus was “way out of line,” adding, “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration.”
So, Ailes dispatched McFarland with a message. McFarland delivered that message. Asked about it, Ailes believes McFarland was irresponsible.
What a tangled web they’ve weaved.