Former Fox Business executive producer Terry Baker contends he was fired last fall in part because of his objections to controversial host Eric Bolling, whom calls a "fame whore" and someone who could damage the network.
"I think he's a complete loose cannon and his only desire is to be a star," said Baker, who last week signed on with Current TV as executive vice president of production. "He just says stuff to be inflammatory and I don't believe that he has any real knowledge of any of it. He's just saying whatever he can say to get attention."
Bolling is among the regulars on Fox News' The Five, the roundtable show that replaced Glenn Beck's program in July.
On both networks, Bolling has gained a reputation for controversial comments. Just last week, he said that the American hikers recently released from Iran were spies and that Iran "should have kept them." This spring, Bolling used his Fox Business show to push conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate. He has also made a series of racially charged comments, for example teasing a segment about Obama hosting the president of Gabon by saying: "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not the first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
"My belief when I was there was that at some point he's going to harm the network because he doesn't care about what he says," Baker, 55, added about Bolling. "He would happily be called names by the rest of the world if that got him hits on the Internet; he's a complete fame whore."
In a lengthy interview with Media Matters, Baker, who spent three years at Fox Business, said his concerns about Bolling were often ignored by higher-level executives.
Baker also weighed in on the future of Fox Business, predicting it will likely seek a closer link to The Wall Street Journal when the Journal's arrangement with CNBC ends in 2012. But he speculated that closer ties could cause friction inside the Journal newsroom.
He also said Fox News' image as a conservative outlet made it difficult to book many liberal or Democratic guests on Fox Business. Baker described being fired by Ailes as a "badge of honor."
"I was there a little over three years," said Baker, who left as executive producer, prime time & weekends. "I was one of the first employees in the door and helped, basically, get it started from hiring editorial people to creating systems to developing shows and then sort of managing them and watching over them as we got the place on the air,"
Asked about Bolling, Baker said: "I'm not a fan, which is probably one of the reasons why I'm not there."
Elaborating further, Baker stated: "I think [Bolling] drags down their credibility, on both sides. It's fine to have a point of view. I don't have a problem with someone being a libertarian and expressing libertarian opinions ... but some of the things he said have just been ridiculously outrageous and they're stuff that's just not based in fact."
Baker declined to cite specific Bolling statements, but added, "He says stuff just to get attention. And you may hate Bill O'Reilly, but Bill O'Reilly at least can back up his opinions, whether you agree with him or not is one thing. You can't get into an actual debate with Eric because, in my opinion, there's no 'there' there."
Baker said when he approached higher-level executives, whose names he declined to reveal, to complain about Bolling, his concerns were ignored.
Baker is not the only former Bolling colleague to criticize his work. Ted David, who spent 20 years at CNBC until 2009 and worked there with Bolling, in July criticized Bolling's Gabon/Obama comments as "ill-tempered, uncouth, (and) crass."
David also said that when he worked with Bolling, "I never thought he was especially bright or especially skilled or astute."
As for Fox Business in general, Baker said its ties to Fox News - and the news channel's reputation - had an influence in several ways.
First, he cited Roger Ailes' effort to oversee who appears on the business network.
"Roger's had great success with the Fox News channel and there would be some of that DNA in and amongst the choices that were made in terms of who was hosting shows, etc. etc., which Roger continues to control. More than anything I think, whether you're talking Fox News or Fox Business, Roger determines who's going to actually be on TV."
He later added, "I think you can look at who's on there today and see Roger's fingerprints for sure. The fact that ...Neil Cavuto's hosting shows on both networks, that sort of thing. I mean, at the end of the day, I think there's a pretty clear understanding in that building that the mother ship is Fox News and nothing will ever be done to harm that."
Asked how Fox News' reputation for inaccuracy and distortion might have affected Fox Business, Baker said: "We were certainly sitting there in the shadow of the behemoth. So it's impossible not to be affected at least occasionally by the fact that you can't, for example, I mean a very simple one is very few, there were some exceptions, but very few Democrats would come on the network."
Baker went on to comment on Fox Business' relations with both the Journal and Fox News, each owned by parent company News Corp.
He said a long-time agreement between the Journal and CNBC made it difficult for Fox Business to capitalize on the Journal brand, a situation he predicts will change at the end of 2012 when the CNBC deal ends.
"I don't think this is any secret of what's going to happen a year from now when suddenly it is possible to pair up the Wall Street Journal and the Fox Business Network. I think strategically you have to ask that question.
"And then, frankly I don't know what the right answer is. Do you throw it all into The Wall Street Journal thing? Do you change the name? Do you get rid of it all together and go completely online? Who knows? But I think that's an issue. I think, and whether or not it stays, let's say they can figure out a way that the numbers work and it's worth continuing the investment because Rupert wants to have a business network. Okay, so do you have the Wall Street Journal people run that and get rid of all the people who are there now? There are a lot of questions. But truthfully, it's only ever going to be a niche channel anyway because that's just what business channels are."
He also said some Journal staff may be reluctant to be linked to Fox Business.
"I don't think there's any question that there probably are or have been people at the Journal who didn't want to be bought by Rupert Murdoch or don't want to be on Fox Business or Fox News, that wouldn't surprise me at all," Baker said. "Whether they're right or wrong, I don't know. But just knowing the business as we both do, you can understand why that attitude might exist in some circles. I don't know whether that gets better. I mean if they marry the two then there's certainly greater potential for that conflict to be out in the open."
Fox Business and Bolling did not respond to requests for comment.
Bill Gorman, co-founder of tvbythenumbers.com, which tracks ratings, says CNBC is in about twice as many homes as Fox Business. But Fox Business' availability is growing.
As of July 2011, Gorman said CNBC was in 98.62 million households, while Fox Business stood at 58.15 million households. But Fox Business had increased, up from 57.13 million households in October 2010 and 51.56 million households in December 2009.
He said CNBC also led in ratings with an average 24-hour viewership of approximately 195,000 viewers during the third quarter of 2011, compared to Fox Business at 61,000.
While CNBC's viewership had increased from a year earlier, when it stood at 171,000 viewers, Fox Business did not reveal such ratings until this year after signing on with Nielsen.
So how much does Fox Business need the Journal? And vice versa?
"I don't think they need the Journal, per se. Would it add to their credibility editorially? Yes. But I don't know that they need them," Baker said. "Whether the Journal needs Fox Business, I doubt it. In the sense that I don't know that it goes to their core competency or their ability to promote their product. But the gap there is what everybody in the media world is trying to figure out. Okay, so, does a newspaper need an outlet in the video world, and all that? It's a question every media company is trying to answer."