Fox News chairman Roger Ailes pulled no punches with his cable news rivals during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, claiming he’s “thrilled” that CNN and MSNBC have now “thrown in the towel” and are “out of the news business.”
The cable news chief — whom The Hollywood Reporter described as “warm and droll for a man often vilified by Hollywood liberals” — still manged to work in a few zingers during the wide-ranging interview. Those who criticized Megyn Kelly’s claim that Santa Claus is white are “pathetic,” Ailes said. “She was joking. She’s talking about Santa Claus, for Christ’s sake,” he claimed. “But the people who are jealous of her, who want to bring down or hurt Fox News, they see an opportunity.”
Ailes also had harsh words for ex-MSNBC’s Alec Baldwin, fired for calling a photographer a gay slur off the air. “He appears to be angry and explosive, so that was essentially bound to happen,” he remarked. “He’s sort of a ready-fire-aim kind of guy as opposed to ready-aim-fire.”
But he had surprisingly kind words for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “On a personal level, I like her,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt her career, so I won’t say we get along, but I’ve had dialogue with her, and she’s very smart.”
His best blows, however, hit the rival networks themselves. He conceded that they sometimes rise to challenge Fox News — “even occasionally a blind pig finds an acorn” — but that overall they seem to have given up on unseating his network from its 12-year perch.
“I’m actually thrilled,” he said, responding to reports that CNN’s Jeff’s Zucker is now focusing more on documentaries and travel shows instead of straight newscasts. “MSNBC has [already] announced they’re out of the news business. They have several different hosts, but it’s always the same show: Republicans are no good. The NBC News people won’t get caught dead on MSNBC. They could have a traffic accident in front of the window, and they wouldn’t cover it.”
“For CNN to also throw in the towel and announce they’re out of the news business is quite interesting,” he continued. “That means Fox has won the cable news war. [Zucker] had a big hit with a whale one night [the documentary "Blackfish"]. I guess he’s going to do whales a lot. If I were Discovery, I’d be worried.”
Fox has dominated cable news ratings since 2001, forcing the remaining networks to squabble for a distant second. The network lost a bit of ground in 2013 but still blew by the competition, earning over 1 million total viewers in primetime compared to MSNBC’s 640,000 and CNN’s 568,000.
Ailes has been at the cable news game a long time — he became president of CNBC in 1993 — but the 73-year-old is still going strong. Although he thinks about retiring “every fifteen minutes,” Ailes can’t imagine not feeling useful. “I’ve never wanted my kid faced with the idea of, “Who’s the fat guy sitting in the living room? What the hell is he doing?’” he said. “I figure I might as well go to work so he can say his dad works. I will someday. But I won’t quit stirring things up.”
The Fox head recounted a meeting with two friends, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and Sirius XM Radio CEO Mel Karmazin. “We got a pool on you Ailes,” they allegedly told him. “It’s up to a million dollars. Everybody wants to know when you’re going to die or retire because you’re killing us.”
“As long as I’m doing that, I’m going to keep working, boys,” Ailes responded.
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