Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Weekend Reader: An Atheist In The FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside The Heart Of The Right-Wing Media

Weekend Reader: An Atheist In The FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside The Heart Of The Right-Wing Media

This week, Weekend Reader brings you an excerpt from Joe Muto’s recently released book, An Atheist in the FOXhole. Muto went “undercover” in the world of mainstream conservative media, gaining access to the kingpin of them all. Working under Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News turned out to be an eye-opening experience for Muto — he was there to research and tell a story, but keeping his personal beliefs hidden in a job he came to detest was no easy task. In Muto’s fascinating and enlightening book he details the power dynamics within the Fox News network — full of scare tactics, paranoia, and intimidation from the ultra-conservative power elite at Fox News. 

You can purchase the book here.

People would often ask me about how Fox pushes a message.

And I would always tell them the message isn’t so much pushed as it is pulled, gravitationally, with Roger Ailes as the sun at the center of the solar system; his vice presidents were the forces of gravity that kept the planet-size anchors and executive producers in a tight orbit; then all the lesser producers and Pas were moons and satellites and debris of varying sizes.

An organizational flow chart at Fox would be tough to draw up, as title alone was not the ultimate signifier of status. Sometimes the anchors outranked their executive producers, as was the case with The O’Reilly Factor. (In fact, Bill had procured an EP title for himself, but he outranked the two other EPs on the show, both Stan, who oversaw TV, radio, and the website, and Gayle, who focused on television and also served as a fact-checker.) Sometimes the anchors were relatively weak—as was the case with a lot of weekend shows, and maybe some of the newswheel hours—and a strong senior producer or producer outranked, or at least pretended to outrank, the host. (For example, Lizzie from The Lineup, who was only a producer but was tough enough that she probably could have bossed around Ailes himself had she been left alone in a room with him for more than five minutes.)

Buy From

The bottom line is that each show had one person—be they anchor or producer or whoever—who was directly accountable to the Second Floor. That was the brilliance of the company’s power structure. One misconception that outsiders always had about the channel is that we’d sit around all morning planning how to distort the news that day. But there was never any centralized control like that. No “marching orders,” as it were. Instead, it was more a decentralized, entrepreneurial approach. Each show was an autonomous unit. Each showrunner—who had no risen to their position by being stupid—knew exactly what was expected of them, knew what topics and guests would be acceptable.

Theoretically, each show could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, and take any angle they wanted to take, and book any guest they wanted to have on.

Realistically, there was tremendous pressure to hew closely to the company line. The Second Floor monitored the content of every show very closely. Each show was required to submit a list of all the guests and all the topics well before the fact; the list would be reviewed by one of the relevant vice presidents. Most of the time, this was just a formality—as I said, the showrunners knew their boundaries—but every once in a while, a certain guest or topic would set off alarm bells on the second floor, leading to a series of increasingly urgent and unpleasant e-mails and phone calls for the showrunner.

Even if a segment passed initial muster, the Second Floor reserved the right to pull the plug if it took a turn they didn’t like. They were always watching, and never hesitant to exercise their authority. Roger himself had a phone in his office, a hotline he could pick up and immediately be connected to the control room. Every producer knew that, and dreaded seeing his name on the caller ID. If Roger took the time to personally call the control room, in my experience it was almost never complimentary.

  • Share this on Google+0
  • Share this on Linkedin0
  • Share this on Reddit2
  • Print this page
  • 270

19 responses to “Weekend Reader: An Atheist In The FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside The Heart Of The Right-Wing Media

  1. howa4x says:

    When Roger Ailes is so closely aligned with the republican party, even choosing who would run, how can the network not be biased. The silver lining is that the Fox news audience is older than the other networks with fewer young people watching. Ailes keeps pushing it to the right corner of the media room and that will one day be it’s demise. Currently all their news is only about the so called scandals that the House dreams up. Polls show they are having less effect though and even with their constant hammering of Obama, the House polls much lower in popularity. Surprising that Hannity has come out in favor of immigration reform. This might be Fox hedging it’s bets. As polls show more and more people are ok with same sex marriage we will see what move they make. It appears they are doubling down in bringing back Palin. She draws a crowd but also scorn and ridicule. They still have the rogues gallery though, with Coulter, Huckabee, O’ Reilly, Hannity, and Palin. As long as they are there, not much change coming

  2. Dominick Vila says:

    What, FOX is biased! Who would have thought such a thing was even possible! FOX, under the watchful eyes of its owners and sponsors, is the disinformation branch of the Republican party, and uses tactics in the pursuit of its goals, that are not too dissimilar from those employed a few decades by their role model.
    The tactics being used by FOX to spread their bile and influence the decision of the naïve and uninformed is not surprising, what is surprising is the fact that credible journalists, such as those that write editorials in this website, have to reveal their nefarious scaremongering, hateful, and opportunistic lies to an audience that ought to know better.

    • Isabel Herron says:

      just as Timothy implied I’m impressed that you can profit $9809 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you read this site w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

    • middleclasstaxpayer says:

      Love your comment about “credible journalists”…..please advise what you think of the credible ultra-liberal journalists at Newsweek Magazine who profiled your hero Obama in their recent cover story:

      “I Too Have Become Disillusioned”

      By Matt Patterson (columnist – opinion writer)

      Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, the result of a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages. How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world’s largest economy, direct the world’s most powerful military, execute the world’s most consequential job?

      Imagine a future historian examining Obama’s pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League, despite unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a “community organizer;” a brief career as a state legislator devoid of legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so often did he vote “present”); and finally an unaccomplished single term in the United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his presidential ambitions.

      He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature legislation as a legislator. And then there is the matter of his troubling associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades served as Obama’s “spiritual mentor”; a real-life, actual terrorist who served as Obama’s colleague and political sponsor. It is easy to imagine a future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man elected president?

      Not content to wait for history, the incomparable Norman Podhoretz addressed the question recently in the Wall Street Journal: To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers, would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberal Dom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. Let that sink in: Obama was given a pass – held to a lower standard – because of the color of his skin.

      Podhoretz continues: And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also so articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?

      Podhoretz puts his finger, I think, on the animating pulse of the Obama phenomenon – affirmative action. Not in the legal sense, of course. But certainly in the motivating sentiment behind all affirmative action laws and regulations, which are designed primarily to make white people, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves.

      Unfortunately, minorities often suffer so that whites can pat themselves on the back. Liberals routinely admit minorities to schools for which they are not qualified, yet take no responsibility for the inevitable poor performance and high drop-out rates which follow. Liberals don’t care if these minority students fail; liberals aren’t around to witness the emotional devastation and deflated self-esteem resulting from the racist policy that is affirmative action. Yes, racist. Holding someone to a separate standard merely because of the color of his skin – that’s affirmative action in a nutshell, and if that isn’t racism, then nothing is.

      And that is what America did to Obama. True, Obama himself was never troubled by his lack of achievements, but why would he be? As many have noted, Obama was told he was good enough for Columbia despite undistinguished grades at Occidental; he was told he was good enough for the US Senate despite a mediocre record in Illinois; he was told he was good enough to be president despite no record at all in the Senate. All his life, every step of the way, Obama was told he was good enough for the next step, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

      What could this breed if not the sort of empty narcissism on display every time Obama speaks? In 2008, many who agreed that he lacked executive qualifications nonetheless raved about Obama’s oratory skills, intellect, and cool character. Those people – conservatives included – ought now to be deeply embarrassed.

      The man thinks and speaks in the hoariest of clichés, and that’s when he has his Teleprompters in front of him; when the prompter is absent he can barely think or speak at all. Not one original idea has ever issued from his mouth – it’s all warmed-over Marxism of the kind that has failed over and over again for 100 years.(An example is his 2012 campaign speeches which are almost word for word his 2008 speeches)

      And what about his character? Obama is constantly blaming anything and everything else for his troubles.Bush did it; it was bad luck; I inherited this mess. Remember, he wanted the job, campaigned for the task. It is embarrassing to see a president so willing to advertise his own powerlessness, so comfortable with his own incompetence. (The other day he actually came out and said no one could have done anything to get our economy and country back on track.) But really, what were we to expect? The man has never been responsible for anything, so how do we expect him to act responsibly?

      In short: our president is a small-minded man, with neither the temperament nor the intellect to handle his job. When you understand that, and only when you understand that, will the current erosion of liberty and prosperity make sense. It could not have gone otherwise with such a man in the Oval Office.

      Boy did he hit the nail on the head!!!!!

  3. 4sanity4all says:

    The people who watch Fox news are convinced that it is the only non-biased news outlet out there. They are under the false impression that Fox does great investigations that uncover scandals in the White House. Fox’s mantra is “repeat it often enough, and people will believe it”. I lose respect for people when they tell me that they watch Fox news. Not surprisingly, they always seem to be Republican.

    • sigrid28 says:

      I think it would be wise for liberals of all stripes to keep an eye on Fox News. It is my go-to channel when commercials intervene on MSNBC and CNN, or when C-Span coverage of Congress proceedings and hearings happening LIVE stop for a break. We live in a country that is not homogeneous (that means culturally similar throughout, for Fox News afficinnadoes on the lam).

      • charleo1 says:

        My wife refuses to allow me to watch Fox. She says in no time at all,
        I am screaming at the T.V. And those little veins, and arteries in my
        forehead start bulging out. She told me, when I have a stroke, she is
        not going to ruin her back lugging my paralyzed ass, on and off of the
        toilet. So, you will let me know what they are lying about? If the veins
        start bulging out, I will tell her I’m looking at porn.

        • sigrid28 says:

          AW RIGHT. You are excused. I am trotting out my old teacher lingo, see–as in old lingo, not old teacher. I will let you know if I see anything of consequence on Fox News. Otherwise, just assume the worst, and I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

    • JO says:

      Results of a poll a few years ago showed that people who watch Fox news are less informed than people who watch no news at all.

  4. kanawah says:

    Sounds like a good book. May get a copy when I have more time to read.

  5. Mark Forsyth says:

    Hail The Propaganda Machine,See The Glory of The Royal Scam!

  6. idamag says:

    They yammer about Christianity being under attack, but they are anything but Christian. The owners are some of the most devious people around. Lies can roll off their tongues, like rain off a metal roof. They spout hate. Rupert Murdock has said it is a conservative network to promote conservatism.

  7. tigerakabj says:

    People who watch Fox (and only Fox) do so b/c they don’t want news. They want to see a network that tells them what they’ve already determined to believe. If they want to believe the Earth is flat, then Fox will tell them that. If they want to believe a certain presidential candidate will win, then Fox will tell them that.

    If the Democrats, or anybody else not affiliated with craziness, does go on Fox, they should do so with the intent of beefing up their rhetorical and other political combat skills. If a side effect is somebody watching actually begins to think on their own, that’s just an added bonus. But don’t go in there with as the primary focus.

    Ailes is the top dog that needs to be watched. Democrats better understand that they are fighting Nixon’s personal communication manager, kingpin of the GOP, and media mouthpiece for the greedy, corporate interests (e.g. Koch brothers/other corporate interests who have bought the GOP).

  8. Independent1 says:

    Kind of interesting, especially considering that a couple studies have concluded that people who watch Fox are less informed than people who don’t watch any news program at all. Here’s and excerpt from the study:

    Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University updated a study they had conducted in late 2011. That study only sampled respondents from New Jersey, where the university is located. This time, the researchers conducted a nationwide poll.

    The poll asked questions about international news (Iran, Egypt, Syria and Greece
    were included) and domestic affairs (Republican primaries, Congress,
    unemployment and the Keystone XL pipeline.)

    The pollsters found that people were usually able to answer 1.8 out of 4 questions
    on foreign news, and 1.6 of 5 questions on domestic news, and that people who
    don’t watch any news were able to get 1.22 of the questions on domestic policy

    As the study explained, though, people who watched only Fox News fared worse: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. The study concluded that people who only watch Fox News are less informed than all other news consumers; and in fact, are less informed than people who watch no news program at all.

    • Mark Forsyth says:

      In a peer evaluated poll conducted by yours truely,it was revealed that on-line website trolls who regularly view Fox News?,when responding to enlightened,reasonable,and logical comments,had decidedly low I.Q..The deleterious effects from long term viewing of Fox propaganda cannot be stressed too much as the results indicate that it is dangerous to human existence.

      • Independent1 says:

        If the FCC was doing its full job, it would only take someone from the FCC a few days of listening/viewing FOX to determine that virtually everything FOX broadcasts is either censored (they don’t broadcast news items that contradict their political opinion), a distortion of the news or a downright lie. All of which should be clear evidence that FOX should lose its license to broadcast propoganda.

        • Mark Forsyth says:

          I don’t know whether or not it is the reason that their license isn’t pulled,but consider that most often the most incendiary comments issueing from Fox comes from those individuals who are pundits rather than reporters or journalists ie: Beck,Limbaugh,etc..Unfortunately,the target audience does not differentiate pundits from reporters any better than truth from fiction.

  9. iheardu2 says:

    Fox personnel are basically “commentators” not real news journalists. Truth serves no purpose for Fox shows just a litany of lies is the objective for ratings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.