Last week, Fox News chief Roger Ailes came under fire for characteristically incendiary remarks he made about The New York Times (“cesspool of bias,” “a bunch lying scum”) and other media organizations during a lecture at Ohio University.
The event was woefully underreported, but an unnamed “senior Fox executive” told Howard Kurtz that Mr. Ailes thought he had gone too far in the lecture. He respects Jill Abramson, the source said, and thinks the Times has been fair under her. At that lecture, he was speaking exclusively about Russ Buettner, who reported that Mr. Ailes had pressured Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators about her relationship with Bernie Kerik.
The full transcript of Mr. Ailes’s May 21 lecture at Ohio University is now online (via Romenesko), and it reveals plenty more original Times commentary. Mr. Ailes said former executive editor Bill Keller was fired for publishing biased news (it went down a little differently in the Ken Auletta version) and that Mr. Keller’s stated opinion of Fox News amounts to sour grapes because the newspaper industry is dying and Fox is thriving. He also said that the two of them are getting a drink.
[UPDATE: That rendez-vous hasn't happened...yet. Mr. Keller told The Observer in an e-mail: “After my column identifying Fox as a satanist front, he sent me a light-hearted email. I offered to buy him a drink. He hasn’t taken me up on it yet. Stay tuned.”
Below, an excerpt of his conversation with moderator Andy Alexander.
AA …Bill Keller who is a former executive editor of the New York Times had a piece recently which you obviously read. And basically, one of the things that Keller said was that partisan press in America is not new and we know that.
RA God knows he’s knows it. He got fired because he was putting the editorials on the front page as news, so —
AA Actually I think he resigned.
RA That’s what we all say. More time with the family.
AA What do you —
RA It usually means you got your butt fired; that’s what it means.
AA Okay. You’re not confusing him with his —
RA I know Bill well. In fact, I e-mailed him afterward and I said, “Bill, your article…” what I find amazing if you read the article very carefully, he’s quite critical of the mainstream press for being too biased. And I said that commentary would never have been written if Fox News didn’t exist. We have made people aware that bias can work from a lot of different directions and God knows The New York Times is one of them. So the fact that he wrote that showed me the influence on Keller of Fox News. Now I wrote to him and I said, “You know, I actually think you’re more biased than you think I am, but I’ll buy you a drink.” He offered to buy me a drink and I’m going to call him next week and we’ll get together and talk.
AA For the benefit of the audience, can I just read one of the key things —
AA — which I think is what you’re responding to. Keller wrote, “My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something that it is not. And in the process contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse. I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is fair and balanced. That’s just a slogan for suckers, but they probably are convinced that what they have created is the conservative counterweight to a media elite long marinated in liberal bias. They believe that they are doing exactly what other serious news organizations do; they just do it for an audience that has been left
out before Fox came along.” I wonder how much of that you really disagree with.
RA I disagree with it in the sense that we really believe when a Shep Smith does our hard news at night, you know, my suspicion is that Shep’s a Liberal, but he actually works at trying to put it over the plate and right down the center. So does Brett Baier. Does Sean Hannity? No. He announces—
RA — he’s a commentator. So I disagree with that. What is amazing is that he’s finally admitting the New York is a cesspool of basically biased.
AA He—admitting that because my reading of that column was he was very clear in saying that we make our own mistakes and that we —
RA But he’s writing his off as mistakes and we’re determined evil people. Let me tell you, let me give you an example. What if you got up on a Thursday morning and the front page of The New York Times said you were going to be indicted on Monday. How would you feel about that? Let’s assume you hadn’t done anything and don’t know anything about it. That happened to me. I got up on a Thursday morning and it said Roger will be indicted on Monday.
AA And what —
RA And do you know what they used for their source? They said somebody was overheard in the waiting room of a Barbados airport saying it. That was their source for that story.
N.B.: As far as we can tell, the Times didn’t say that Mr. Ailes would be indicted. That report came from blogger Barry Ritholtz.
AA Did you call them on it?
AA Why not?
RA Because they’re a bunch of lying scum and they’re not going to do anything about it. They did it on purpose, they did it deliberately and they didn’t have anything. I’m sure they couldn’t produce the guy in the Barbados airport.
AA One of the things —
RA So, do I take on The New York Times? Yes. Yes, I do, because somebody should.
AA Now speaking of the lying scum here, another line in Bill’s column was basically he says that Fox handles stories this way. Control it, spin it or his—meaning yours–segmented audience of believers and demonize anyone who sees things differently.
RA Fine. Give me an example. Let me hear what you’ve got as an example. That’s his opinion as a far-left wing editor, writer, reporter, journalist so called, and he has a right to that position. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I think Bill’s a very talented guy; I’m told he’s a pretty nice guy, I intend to find out because I’ll sit with him and have a drink. I don’t have any problem with him having it, but you have to understand that is his view of Fox News, primarily because we’re winning. One of the things that is really, you know, we’ve moved into a society that thinks everybody ought to get a trophy. That’s not the way it works. Somebody’s going to win. And let me tell you when they win, when you win they don’t like you. Newspapers are dying, their profits are down, they had to go to a guy in Mexico to cough up enough cash to keep them running. They’re a far-left wing newspaper. They have an absolute right to be. And I don’t have any problem with that other than the fact that I have a right to present what I view to be an alternative point of view to The New York Times. So I don’t have a fight with Keller. I don’t even have a fight with left-wingers. But I do have a fight with people on the left who have a problem with Fox.