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BriWi Shouldn’t Be Fired, and 6 Other Fascinating Quotes from ‘Introspective’ Roger Ailes Profile

The 7 Most Fascinating Quotes from 'Introspective' Roger Ailes Profile

On Monday morning, The Hollywood Reporter published its extensive cover profile of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. The full piece is available here, but we know our readers have a perpetual case of “TL;DR,” so we’ll do the honors of distilling some of the most interesting quotes and points for you below.

Ailes Thinks Brian Williams Should Get His Job Back

Not only does Bill O’Reilly recall Ailes asking the shows to stop beating the embattled NBC host over the head after a week of coverage (“He said to us, ‘OK, we covered it, I don’t think we need to kill the guy.'”), but the Fox chief himself thinks BriWi deserves a second chance:

“I think Brian’s a talent who made a dumb-ass error,” he says. “When you spend your life around CEOs and generals and presidents, you can start to feel less than, particularly if you don’t have a college education, you never joined the service. And so you get tempted to do something stupid. So I think he can admit that and say, ‘I screwed up.’ And most people are willing to forgive. I’m a great believer in giving people a chance. If you haven’t actually killed someone or done something that’s irreparable, then it’s a matter of going on a little journey and never ever doing anything like that again.”

He reiterated as much when asked about NBC’s new chairman:

“Andy [Lack] is a smart guy. He’s going to work on several problems at the same time. That in and of itself will make a difference. He’s got to make the right call on Brian Williams. I’d put Brian back.”

Ailes Enjoys Teasing the Left

The Fox CEO prides himself on “stand[ing] in the doorway” of the media, long providing a “dissenting voice” in a business dominated by coastal liberals. Such is the success of Fox News itself, having become so immensely popular with a conservative audience that felt ignored by the elite big networks. “Combative and brutally funny, he seems to enjoy stoking the popular caricature of the liberals’ bogeyman,” THR reporter Marisa Guthrie said of Ailes.

“I think liberals have a lot of good ideas actually,” the CEO told Guthrie. “But I’ve been pigeonholed and I’m quite comfortable with it.”

At the beginning of their conversation, Ailes showed his love of poking at the left when he teased Guthrie for the fruit she had already eaten that morning. “Mango,” he told her with a grin, “liberal fruit.” Guthrie wrote: “Why, I wonder, does he consider mango liberal fruit? Because it’s from South America? He nods: ‘All those commies live down there.'”

And, of course, at another point he repeats the line on Jon Stewart that “[Fox is] the only reason he’s a success.”

Ailes Doesn’t Care to Actively Court Liberal Viewers

Ailes’ interviewer noted how Fox has more than just an ardently conservative audience: “about 37 percent of its audience holds ‘mixed’ views, according to a 2014 Pew study, while 14 percent are ‘liberal’ and 4 percent are ‘consistently liberal,'” Guthrie wrote. But Ailes, she added, doesn’t need to openly court those staunchly left viewers:

“I don’t give a rat’s ass,” he says, breaking out his favorite rodent reference. “My job is to cover the news and do it accurately and fair. And we do. And voila! We have the largest number of independents watching television of any channel. Why is that? Not because we suck around and try to talk these people into watching our programming. We do programming that appeals to them, and so they tune to us. That’s how you get them. You can’t be chasing these little balkanized groups of people around. It’s just nuts. Do your programming. It should be American. We’re Americans. It’s a culture. We should defend that culture, and we should reinforce that culture.”

Unlike MSNBC — which, for a time, actively courted progressive viewers — Ailes believes Fox is simply in the business of creating TV:

“They have to decide what they are. I don’t think they even view it as television. They view it as a place to express their views, which happen to be all the same view. And so you’ve got one topic and 12 people [with the same opinion], and it’s just boring.”

Ailes Is Sorta Fatalistic About 2016

With an open skepticism of Hillary Clinton, Ailes is obviously interested in helping a Republican candidate defeat her in 2016. But he doesn’t think his platform will do much in the end. “I just don’t think I should weigh in on it, even in the press because people will think, ‘Well, that’s the way he’s making the network go.’ But it looks like Hillary is going to do whatever she wants,” he told Guthrie, “and the press is going to vote for her.”

And he’s not so sure an “establishment” GOP candidate like Jeb Bush is a shoo-in for the party’s nomination: “Listen, we elected Warren G. Harding. Anybody has a chance,” he said. “You don’t know who you’re going to be running against. If the other guy falls on his rear end, you could win.”

Ailes Has Zero Interest in Returning to Politics

Asked whether he’d consider going back into politics after he inevitably departs Fox News, Ailes had this to say:

“Too late,” he says quickly. “If I had gone in 20 years ago. … But I hated the political life. Every night is a fundraiser. It’s sort of empty. If you’re in the Senate and in the minority, you just get to give speeches and run around and raise money. If you’re in the majority, you’re under attack from the press every day.”

He could make a comfortable living on the speaker circuit, I suggest. “I have a lot of offers for speeches now,” he says. “But you really don’t affect anything. It seems a little narcissist and empty.”

Ailes on Whether GOP Candidates Should Spend Less Time on Fox

Guthrie asked the Fox chief about the Republican Party’s 2012 post-mortem report that subtly suggested GOP candidates and surrogates should spend less time in friendly media environments. “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with … those who do not agree with us,” the report said. Ultimately, it concluded, the GOP “needs to stop talking to itself.”

Ailes’ reaction:

Asked whether he thinks the RNC report was aimed at Fox News, Ailes becomes animated. “The dumb bastards ought to turn it off if they don’t like it,” he says. “They shouldn’t try to get on and get interviewed if they don’t like it.” Then he softens slightly. “What I admire about them is the Republicans at least admit it. The Democrats [will] never say, ‘We’re ideologically driven.’ They never say that. Everything is for a higher purpose.”

Ailes Doesn’t See Gay Rights as Any of His Business

The Fox CEO spoke of his friendship with Fox contributor Ellen Ratner, who is in a same-sex relationship with retired Air Force pilot Cholene Espinoza:

“She has promoted gay rights on our air. She’s a sweet woman, and her partner is a f—ing bomber pilot. So I don’t care. It’s not my business how people live. I don’t try to tell them what to do. I’ve hired and promoted gays all my life. I just don’t get involved. It’s not my business. And it’s not their business what I like.”

Full piece available here.

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