What is Roger Ailes so afraid of?
Writer Gabriel Sherman hasn't even finished the unauthorized book he's working on about Ailes and the rise of Fox News, and already Ailes' minions are launching wild, unsubstantiated personal attacks against him.
Reminiscent of when Sarah Palin and Fox News instigated a nasty smear campaign against her biographer, suggesting sexual deviancy motivated his reporting, Fox now seems to be adopting the same offensive tactics against Sherman.
Make no mistake, this is an ugly attempt by Ailes' paid hit men and women to preemptively smear a journalist, to rally a right-wing Twitter mob against him, and to try to intimidate him from documenting the truth about Ailes. And the early name-calling, centered on hollow allegations of wrongdoing, represent the dark trajectory this unfolding attack will likely to take.
The truth is, these types of Fox-led assaults on journalists are often conducted behind the scenes by Ailes' public relations players. The current assault may signal that the Sherman book is so important, and so frightening to her boss, that on-air hosts are signing up as combatants to publicly denigrate a writer for having the nerve to write about a very public figure.
Quick background: Writing in New York this week, Sherman noted in passing that his subscription to the Putnam County News and Recorder had been unexpectedly canceled. The Upstate New York weekly is owned by Ailes and published by his wife, Elizabeth.
It turns out Sherman was specifically cut off from the newspaper because he's writing a book about the publisher's husband. "I don't want to get into a financial transaction with him and his credit card," Elizabeth Ailes told the Washington Post's Erik Wemple.
With that background, here's the wild attack Fox's Andrea Tantaros made on Twitter yesterday:
Apparently, the newspaper-publishing wife of world-famous Roger Ailes is a "private citizen" who cannot be written about. That's a unique perspective. It's almost as unique as a publisher scrubbing her subscription list of paid customers she doesn't want buying her weekly.
So yes, Tantaros' attack on Sherman was baseless. All he did was recount the curious tale of how Ailes' wife had taken the unusual step of canceling his newspaper subscription based on what Sherman might write about her husband.
What's also chilling is the loaded language Tantaros used in her Tweets, words like "harasser" and "stalker," as she portrayed Ailes' wife as the object of Sherman's obsession. (By singling out his subscription, isn't it Elizabeth Ailes who's oddly preoccupied with Sherman?)
That is unmistakably language that conjures up the specter of sexual assault. And the obvious, disturbing inference Tantaros made on Twitter, without a hint of substance to back it up, was that Sherman poses a looming physical threat to Ailes' wife and that the journalist has crossed all kinds of ethical bounds in his attempt to harass and stalk her.
To borrow a phrase from Baltimore Sun television writer David Zurawik, the fact that a Fox News host would stoop so low confirms it's an outlet that's "rotten to the core."