ATHENS, Ohio — A number of media outlets attacked Fox News Channel Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes on Tuesday, ignoring the context of Ailes’ statement that The New York Times is “a bunch of lying scum.”
Ailes made the comment during an on-stage conversation with Andy Alexander, a former Washington Post ombudsman, about past conversations Ailes had with now-former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. Alexander’s appearance with Ailes at the event was reported almost nowhere.
Specifically, Alexander and Ailes were discussing one of Keller’s most recent columns, in which he attacked Fox News.
Alexander said Keller argued that “partisan press is not new in America.”
Ailes fired back a quick barb about Keller’s comment. “Lord knows he knows it!,” Ailes said to a room full of laughter. “He [Keller] got fired because he was putting editorials on the front page as news.”
“Well, actually, I think he resigned,” Alexander responded.
“Okay, that’s what we all say: ‘More time with the family,'” Ailes quipped again. “Usually that means you got your butt fired.”
Then Ailes got serious, saying that he had emailed Keller to talk about his column. “I said, ‘Bill, your article, what I find amazing is’ — if you read the article very carefully, he’s quite critical of the mainstream press for being too biased — and I said ‘that kind of commentary would never have been 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 it showed me the influence on Keller of Fox News,” Ailes continued. “So, I wrote to him and said, ‘You know, I actually think you’re more biased than you think I am.’”
As the conversation progressed, Alexander read aloud a passage from Keller’s column: “I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is ‘fair and balanced’ — that’s just a slogan for the 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 had been left out before Fox came along.”
Alexander asked Ailes whether he agreed or disagreed with Keller’s assessment of his news network’s philosophy. “I disagree with it,” Ailes said, adding a caveat: “What is amazing is that he’s finally admitting that The New York Times thing is a cesspool of liberal, basically, bias.”
Before Alexander could respond, Ailes offered 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 feel about that?” Ailes asked. “Let’s assume you hadn’t done anything and don’t know anything about it.”
Alexander, who had regularly been interjecting his own commentary throughout the discussion, fell silent, as did the audience. “That happened to me,” Ailes finally said, breaking a few seconds of awkward silence. “I got up on Thursday morning and it said ‘Roger Ailes will be indicted on Monday.’ And you know what they used for their source? They said somebody was overheard in the waiting room of a Barbados airport. That was their source for that story.”
The only thing Alexander could say in response was, “Did you call them on it?”
Ailes said he didn’t. “No, no, because they’re a bunch of lying scum,” Ailes answered.