Gabriel Sherman

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  • Report: Rupert Murdoch And Fox News All In On Donald Trump

    New York Magazine’s Sherman: Fox Has “Thrown In The Towel” And Won’t “Go After Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a New York magazine article, Gabriel Sherman reported that Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, “has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton” in “a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year.”

    Sherman noted that Murdoch’s “flip flop” on Trump follows the presumptive Republican nominee’s months-long feud with Fox News in which Trump boycotted a network presidential debate, referred to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly as a “crazy” and “overrated anchor,” and even boycotted the network (for a week). Fox responded to Trump’s actions by openly mocking the candidate and accusing him of having a “sick obsession” with Megyn Kelly. It was also reported in the early days of Trump’s campaign that Murdoch and Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes were fighting over the network’s coverage of the candidate.

    According to Sherman, the network has reportedly “thrown in the towel” and will “go easy on Trump.” Sherman explained “That Murdoch flip flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising” because he’s repeatedly “sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests” and "it’s clear Trump is good for business.” From the May 17 report:

    Call it the media equivalent of Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King: Tonight, Donald Trump finally sits down with his Fox News nemesis Megyn Kelly. The battle between Trump and Fox’s biggest star has been one of the most compelling story lines of the 2016 election, and the subject of much discussion in the run-up to Kelly’s prime-time broadcast special with the GOP frontrunner. But in all the coverage of the Trump-Kelly détente, a more important development has been overlooked: Trump has made peace with Kelly’s boss’s boss, Rupert Murdoch.

    According to a half dozen sources familiar with Murdoch’s thinking, the media mogul has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton. Murdoch’s embrace of Trump is a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year. In fact, according to one high-level Fox source, it was Murdoch himself who directed Kelly to hammer Trump during the debut GOP debate, in Cleveland, that sparked the feud in the first place. “Rupert told her to do that,” the source said.

    That Murdoch flip-flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising. Yes, Trump’s stances on immigration and trade clash with Murdoch’s more moderate views (he's for comprehensive reform and trade deals). But throughout Murdoch’s career, he’s sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests (after all, he backed both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the U.K.).

    And it’s clear Trump is good for business. According to one Fox News producer, the channel's ratings dip whenever an anti-Trump segment airs. A Fox anchor told me that the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump. “It’s, ‘Make sure we don't go after Trump,’” the anchor said. “We’ve thrown in the towel.” Similarly, the New York Post has staked out a pro-Trump position in the marketplace while its rival the Daily News remains one of Trump’s loudest critics. The Post endorsed Trump last month and dubbed him “King Don!” after he won the New York primary. (The outlier among Murdoch’s properties is The Wall Street Journal. “They’re stupid people,” Trump told me back in March).

    Murdoch's strategy seems to be a win-win. If Trump gets into the White House, Murdoch will likely have an open line to the new administration (at least as open as anyone can have with Trump). And, if Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, then Murdoch's right-wing outlets have a ready-made enemy to beat up on for the next four years. That's a deal Trump can surely respect.

  • Report: The Trump Campaign Is Tearing Apart Fox News

    NY Mag Highlights Fox's "Confusion" About Trump Coverage And Its Role in 2016 Elections

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the "confusion" at Fox News about the network's role in the "altered media ecosystem going forward," in particular over the coverage of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

    Trump has been a regular fixture on Fox News since 2011, which paved the way for his presidential run. The relationship between Trump and Fox became tumultuous following Fox's first GOP primary debate in August 2015, during which moderator Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about his history of sexism. Yet, Fox continued to give Trump more than double the airtime of any other candidate. Trump ultimately skipped Fox's second primary debate in January after the network released a mocking statement in response to his demand that Kelly be removed as a moderator. Fox chairman Roger Ailes and network personalities have since struggled with their coverage of Trump.

    A February 9 article from New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the internal "confusion about what role" Fox News "should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward." Sherman argued, "Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox." But as Sherman pointed out, "network boss Ailes has tried that" and Trump has "demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican." Sherman also highlighted how the Trump-Kelly spar has now forced Ailes to "broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly":

    With his decisive win in New Hampshire, Donald Trump dashed the GOP Establishment's hope that skipping last month's Fox News debate would sink his campaign. By claiming more than a third of the New Hampshire vote, Trump not only exceeded expectations and more than doubled the vote tally of any of his rivals -- but also demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican. The grip that Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Co. have held on the GOP for nearly a generation got a little looser Tuesday night.

    Inside Fox there is confusion about what role the network should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward. According to three insiders I spoke to, the channel's hosts and producers are split over how to cover Trump. Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox. But network boss Ailes has tried that, and Trump not only survived the PR assaults, including one last month, but he seems to have emerged stronger than ever. The situation is even more dire because Marco Rubio, a favorite of many high-profile voices at the network, fared badly in the New Hampshire primary, only a few days after political analysts were floating the possibility that he might even beat Trump. Tuesday night, Fox's pundit class had to accept that his robotic performance during ABC's debate may have destroyed his candidacy. Charles Krauthammer even compared it to Ed Muskie's 1972 implosion.


    In fact, Ailes's bigger problem this week is not Trump. It's figuring out how to broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. According to sources, the prime-time hosts are at war, in part over Kelly's Trump-fueled stardom. O'Reilly is said to be outraged that Kelly went on Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl show and seemed to criticize his program because it's taped at 5 p.m. and airs at 8 p.m." If you're not live at night -- because the show before me and the show after me are taped -- you lose a lot," she told Colbert, the comedian famous for playing a buffoonish version of O'Reilly for years. O'Reilly has also told people he's furious that Kelly hasn't shown him respect for helping make her Fox's brightest light. Things got so bad that back in September Kelly switched talent agents -- she'd been represented by longtime O'Reilly agent Carole Cooper but left for CAA. "They're at each other's throats big time," one Fox insider said. "I mean, like big time. Roger doesn't know what the hell to do." It's possibly a sign that Murdoch wants to keep Kelly in the fold that last week his book publisher HarperCollins signed her to a reported $10 million book deal.

  • "Well It Looks Like I'll Be Able To Wear Pants": Fox News Personality Alludes To Fox's Sexist Dress Code Policy

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    On Fox News' The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfyole inadvertently highlighted the network's sexist dress code when she said that she may be able to wear pants on the show's Iowa set because cameras won't get "a suitable shot for me there."

    On the January 27 edition of Fox News' The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld revealed the set that the co-hosts would use for their upcoming Iowa coverage. As the camera panned out to show the desk where the co-hosts would be seated, Guilfyole commented "Oh my god, well it looks Iike I'll be able to wear pants, because I'm not seeing a suitable shot for me there":

    Guilfoyle's comments highlight Fox's well know problem with sexism and scantily clad women. In 2013, Fox host Gretchen Carlson admitted that "pants were not allowed on Fox & Friends," a show she co-hosted with two male co-hosts from 2006 until 2013. Journalist and author Gabriel Sherman also noted several other examples of Fox's dress code, notably by Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. On several occasions, Ailes has made sexist comments about female reporters legs, including, "I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits," and "move that damn laptop, I can't see her legs." Sherman also wrote that Ailes even envisioned "the leg" being an important part of The Five's creation explaining the show needs a leading man, a serious lead, a court jester, a Falstaff, and "the leg":

    Years later at Fox News, Ailes would talk fondly about his theatrical experience. "Whenever he can, he gets into the conversation that he produced Hot l Baltimore," a senior Fox executive said. Creating the Fox News afternoon show The Five, Ailes found his inspiration on the stage. "He said, 'I've always wanted to do an ensemble concept,'" a close friend said. "He said, 'I wanted a Falstaff, and that's Bob Beckel. I need a leading man, and it's Eric Bolling. I need a serious lead and that's Dana Perino. I need a court jester and it's Greg [Gutfeld], and I need the leg. That's Andrea Tantaros."

  • New York Magazine: Bill O'Reilly-George Will Feud Reflects "Civil War" Between Fox News Executives

    O'Reilly's Killing Books Reportedly "Considered Something Of A Joke" At Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the ongoing "civil war" between Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and contributor George Will over O'Reilly's newest book, Killing Reagan, in a new report. Sherman interviewed executives at the network who call O'Reilly's books "a joke" and offered insight on a feud between Fox executives Bill Shine and Mike Clemente.

    The recent feud began after Will published a November 5 Washington Post column titled, "Bill O'Reilly slanders Ronald Reagan." In the column, Will called the book "nonsensical history and execrable citizenship," with a "preposterous premise" that "should come with a warning: 'Caution -- you are about to enter a no-facts zone.'"

    O'Reilly responded to Will's column later that night, calling it "libel," and challenged Will to come onto his show and attack him in person - a challenge Will accepted.

    Sherman's November 9 exclusive highlighted the "civil war" currently raging at Fox, noting the distain for O'Reilly and his Killing books and how the rift has strengthened the rivalry between Mike Clemente, who oversees the news division, and Bill Shine, who oversees the prime-time shows. Both are high level executives hoping to replace Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. According to Sherman, a Fox executive also commented O'Reilly's Killing series of books are considered "something of a joke inside the network," with the executive saying, "[O'Reilly] certainly doesn't research his books":

    Inside Fox, the O'Reilly-Will feud is being closely studied by executives because it is part of a larger power struggle that's taking place at the highest reaches of the organization. On opposing sides of the fault line are Clemente, who oversees news (where Will works), and executive vice-president Bill Shine, who oversees prime-time shows (where O'Reilly works). Clemente and Shine are vying to replace Ailes and are such bitter rivals that they barely speak, numerous Fox employees say. In August 2014, the rivalry intensified when Ailes put Shine in charge of the Fox Business Network. "This is some Game of Thrones shit," one insider told me. The relationship is so bad that Clemente is not involved at all in preparing for the upcoming GOP debate on Fox Business.

    Shine's loyalists tell me that Clemente did not confer with Shine about Will's anti-O'Reilly column before it was published. Furthermore, they're furious at Clemente for not stopping Will from embarrassing Fox's highest-rated host in the pages of the Post. They reminded me that it was Clemente who recruited Will to Fox from ABC in 2013. One source also explained that Will received a special contributor contract with Fox that grants him editorial independence for his column (other contributors are barred from writing about Fox without permission). "He doesn't have to check with Fox," the source said.

    Clemente did not comment, but his camp is firing back off the record. "Almost everyone is on team George," one said. "Everyone is snickering and thinks it's a riot." Another told me that O'Reilly's Killing series is considered something of a joke inside the network. "He certainly doesn't research his books," one executive said.

    Where Ailes stands remains unclear. In the past he's been critical of O'Reilly's book-writing ventures. In my biography of Ailes, I reported Ailes told colleagues that O'Reilly is "a book salesman with a TV show." Fox News has not commented on the mess. "Roger is probably in the men's room hoping this whole thing blows over," one insider told me today. That might be wishful thinking. The rumor at Fox is that Will is preparing to write another O'Reilly column. Will did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Fox's Eric Bolling Is Donald Trump's Biggest Fan

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News CEO Roger Ailes reportedly told network host Eric Bolling to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on air. Bolling has repeatedly gone to bat for Trump, praising him as someone who "means business" and defending his controversial remarks.

  • Ailes Biographer Sherman Discusses How The Fox News Chief Is "One Of The Great American Hucksters"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Despite Fox News' best efforts to hamper it, Gabriel Sherman's new biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes has been the focus of widespread media attention this week.

    Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room paints an in-depth look at Ailes as someone who operates Fox News more as a political entity than a journalistic one.

    In a wide-raging interview Tuesday with Media Matters, Sherman discussed his quest to "show all sides" of Ailes; how Fox News has morphed into "Ailes' personal megaphone"; how the network has "become damaging to the Republican brand"; the "political campaign" Fox has waged to distract people from the book; and the Fox chief's place in history as "one of the great American hucksters."

    Below is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

    You said on Reliable Sources that Fox News is a political operation that employs journalists. I think that's an interesting description. How have you seen that hurt its credibility, and can it really operate that way?

    Well I think that over time things have changed. In the early years of Fox, the blueprint was more tabloid and populist than baldly conservative but as Ailes has amassed more power, the true nature of the organization he was building has come into clearer view and it's become harder and harder for the network to maintain the fiction of "fair and balanced." And the model, the idea for Fox was always to have the culture of a political campaign. Ailes runs it like a political campaign. There's a secret organization, a secret group of executives inside the network called the G8, which is a riff off of the G6, which was from the George H.W. Bush campaign. So you see how Ailes has brought the culture of a political campaign into the news business. And now, in the Obama years, the last -- since 2008, we've seen Fox has sort of come into full bloom. And it's revealed itself for what it is, which is that it's Roger Ailes' personal megaphone.

    And did that hurt its efforts to complete its mission, or did that not really affect it for the people that watch Fox?

    Well the audience is very -- it's still the most dominant cable network. The audience is loyal. There's been some dips, especially after the 2012 election. I think one of the most important developments is that as Fox has fully evolved and emerged as Ailes' megaphone, it has hurt Fox's ability to win national elections. From 2000 til 2008, Fox was able to really cheerlead and be a platform for the Bush White House. But as the network has become more extreme, it's become harder and harder to resonate -- it's become damaging to the Republican brand. And that's where you see the limits of Ailes' power. 2012 was a very revealing moment of that.  

    The Republican Party has leadership problems. Aside from Chris Christie, just in general, losing the last two presidential elections and the other Republican Party problems, how much do they hurt Ailes and Fox, and their effectiveness? Or how much did Ailes and Fox hurt the Republican Party and its efforts, as you said, to win elections?

    I would put the responsibility on Ailes and the network he runs because what makes the best television is the most conflict, some of the most extreme voices are the ones that break through on Fox and as his network has effectively become the brand of the Republican Party, you know I said that it has surpassed the Republican Party. So the brand of Fox has become the brand of the Republican Party and that has hurt the party on issues from immigration, on issues of marriage equality, on issues of climate change, and spending.

    The idea that in one meeting Ailes said that Obama hates capitalism. Now you could have a lot of -- there can be a debate about the economic policy of this administration, but the notion that they hate capitalism just doesn't -- it's just not supported by the observable reality. I mean Obama has sort of governed as a pretty conventional Democrat, down the middle Democrat with some liberal views. But the idea that he is -- if you believe that Obama, that Ailes defines, is this extreme, statist, you know, radical politician, and that brand is too extreme for the Republican Party to win national majorities.

  • Evidence Links Roger Ailes To Ads For Pro-Ailes Biography

    NY Times Ads Placed By Fox Chief's "Personal PR Consultant"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The New York Times Book Review has run an advertisement for a biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes during each of the past two weekends.

    But it's not the biography from New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, The Loudest Voice In The Room, which is to be published Tuesday and takes a critical look at the Fox president.

    The Book Review ads, at a combined cost of $15,000, are for conservative journalist Zev Chafets' bio, Roger Ailes Off Camera, which was branded as a hagiography when it was first published last year.

    The ads seem to be an attempt to counter the Sherman book, stating that Chafets' book is "based on the only exclusive interview with Ailes" and that "Chafets book captures the real ROGER AILES and the true inside story of FOX News."

    It's unclear who is behind the ads. But the ads were reportedly placed by Ailes' "personal PR consultant."

    The ads are somewhat unusual in that they do not mention the publisher, Penguin Book's conservative imprint Sentinel, and are vague about who paid for the placement. A Times spokesperson revealed that the ads were placed, not by Penguin, but by the Dilenschneider Group, a public relations firm, as Huffington Post's Michael Calderone previously reported.

    As Calderone notes, the firm's founder, Robert Dilenschneider, is described in Sherman's book as Ailes' "personal PR consultant."

    The Dilenschneider Group has so far failed to respond to inquiries about the ads, while Chafets' publicist at Penguin declined to comment on it, stating via email, "I won't be commenting on the ad to anyone. I'm sorry I'm not more helpful."

    Another unusual element of the story is that both books are published by divisions of the same company, Penguin Random House, formed when the two prominent publishers merged last year. Sherman's book is published through Random House, while Chafets' is a project of the Penguin/Sentinel division.

    For one division to run a high-profile ad indirectly attacking another division's book on the same subject right before that book's release seems odd.

    In addition, while there is no ad in the Book Review for Sherman's book, there is a lengthy review of Sherman's biography in the weekly book section.

    The entwined history of the Chafets and Sherman biographies, as well as the firm that placed them, may present clues as to the source of the ads. 

    Ailes reportedly agreed to cooperate with Chafets as a way of pre-empting Sherman's biography; his network gave the relentlessly positive result heavy coverage following its release.

    Ailes and Fox have attempted to kneecap Sherman's reporting at every turn.

    The network reportedly fired its top PR executive who they were worried was leaking information to Sherman; Fox personalities publicly attacked the New York reporter, allegedly at a top network executive's behest; and the network threw roadblocks in the way of Sherman's attempts to speak with Fox employees and even threatened to sue him.

    Fox News did not respond to inquiries about any involvement by Ailes or the network in the Chafets ad. Chafets did not respond to requests for comment.