A recent Newsweek column makes a bold, if slightly counter-intuitive pronouncement that pairs media and politics: “Roger Ailes is the real head of the GOP” argues Howard Fineman in “Life of the Party.” But it just sounds so familiar…
Ah, yes! Mediaite has been making a similar case since September, when a column by Managing Editor Colby Hall called Ailes “The Most Powerful Political Figure In America,” supported again last month when we named Ailes the #1 Media Innovator of 2009. Glad we can agree, Newsweek, but let’s run down the evidence.
Fineman leads with the lack of a leader in the current GOP. Unable to come up with a clear answer, he writes that he “finally found my answer while I was watching Fox News Channel.”
Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum—which is why God created Roger Ailes. The president of Fox News is, by default, the closest thing there is to a kingmaker in Anti-Obama America. And that, in turn, makes him the de facto leader of the GOP. In a relentless (and spectacularly successful) hunt for cable ratings, Ailes has given invaluable publicity to the tea partiers, furnished tryout platforms to GOP candidates, and trained a fire hose of populist anger at the president and his allies in Congress.
Our own Hall wrote:
In discussing the power and influence of Ailes, one has to start with the ratings – as we reported this Monday, FNC is consistently beating all other networks combined.
But the power of Fox News goes beyond total eyeballs — their influence is actually shaping policy and taking down federal officials in an unprecedented manner. First, there is the Health Care debate – no outlet has had more influence than Fox, who went so far as to claim that the Obama Administration was attacking FNC.
Fineman reveals that he has a personal relationship with Ailes and goes on to call the FNC boss a “frenemy.” The most interesting section, though, follows:
The irony is that Ailes is not in the game to wield political power per se. He doesn’t talk to the RNC and he can’t stand most elected politicians, even the ones he puts on the air. “It’s beneath him to get into politics,” says a longtime friend. In his universe, the Washington equation is reversed: political power begets profits, not the other way around. But if politics is a nonstop talk show, being the head booker means you are the boss.
And profit is something Ailes knows all about, earning almost $24 million last year, a figure we’ve highlighted before. Let’s not forget our assessment of the Ailes portrayal in the New York Times either.
Plenty of ink (and blog ink, of course) has been spilled on Ailes in recent months — he’s impossible to ignore. And obviously, there’s plenty of room on this particular analysis beat. Just remember where you came from, okay?
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