Today the Weekend Reader brings you The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–And Divided a Country, the new controversial biography of the Fox News mogul by New York magazine contributing editor Gabriel Sherman. The Loudest Voice in the Room is the result of years of interviews and research into the backstory, inner workings, and dynamics of Fox News and the man who created it.
You can purchase the book here.
For Ailes, Obama’s meteoric ascent onto the national stage was yet another triumph of the counterculture and the liberal news media. “People need to be reminded,” Ailes told Fox News executives around the time Obama declared his candidacy, “this guy never had a job. He’s a community organizer.” A few days after Obama’s historic election, Ailes remarked during his morning editorial meeting, “There’s no reason to have a civil rights movement anymore, since there is a black man in the White House.” Obama’s victory changed the mission of Fox News. “When he started the channel, it was a campaign against CNN. But it is now less about the competition and more about the administration,” a former senior Fox producer said. “He honestly thinks Obama has set back the country forever. He feels like he is the only one out there who can save the republic. He has said it.”
Ailes’s battle did not end when he left the office. At his weekend estate in Putnam County, some forty miles north of New York City, Ailes bought the local newspaper and used it to advance his agenda. He complained to neighbors that Obama refused to call Muslims “terrorists.” He told them that Obama was using the stimulus as a “political tool” in order to buy his reelection in 2012. Obama pushed green energy, when in fact climate change was a “worldwide conspiracy” spun by “foreign nations” to gain control of America’s resources.
Ailes even told his advisers that if Obama were reelected, he could be prosecuted and jailed, like a political prisoner. During a forty-five-minute meeting at Bill Clinton’s foundation in Harlem, Ailes told the former president that he might emigrate to Ireland, and had explored acquiring an Irish passport.
And yet, in the halls of the White House, Ailes kept these feelings to himself. As he walked up to Obama to shake his hand and pose for a photo, he faced a very different politician than the one he’d first met in the summer of 2008. At the time, Obama was a candidate who believed in his ability to overcome the grievance politics of the past through the force of his personal narrative. He told his aides he thought he could win over Fox’s audience—and even Ailes himself—by reasoning with them. Now, nearly three years into his first term, Obama had learned—often the hard way—that his vision of harmony was a pipe dream.
On the rope line, Obama greeted Ailes and his son.
“I see the most powerful man in the world is here,” Obama said. Ailes grinned. “Don’t believe what you read, Mr. President. I started those rumors myself.”
Whatever President Obama intended to convey, there is no denying an essential truth in the remark. Roger Ailes has the power, more than any single person in American public life, to define the president. For many Americans—admittedly and patently not the ones that voted for him— the Obama they know, the one they are raging against, is the one Ailes has played a large role creating.