"Rupert Is Going to Need Me to Elect the Next President"
Fox News President Roger Ailes
by Gaius Publius
In a rather public and messy way, Roger Ailes has been demoted at Fox News. It started with Rupert Murdoch's plan to pass control of his recently formed media division, 21st Century Fox, to his sons Lachlan and James.
From the Fox announcement (my emphasis mine except where noted):
Rupert Murdoch to propose 21st Century succession plan that hands control to sons James and LachlanThe sentence I bolded above is apparently not true and was inserted at the insistence of Ailes himself without Murdoch's knowledge.
Murdoch, the 84-year-old executive chairman and chief executive officer -- and controlling shareholder of the company -- will discuss the succession plan at the company's next board meeting. The plan reportedly calls for James to become CEO and Lachlan to serve as co-executive chairman. James currently is the company's chief operating officer.
Rupert Murdoch would continue to serve as executive chairman, according to Stuart Varney, host of Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch, according to Fox News Channel.
As the chief executive officer, James Murdoch, 42, would take over the day-to-day management of 21st Century Fox's media companies. He previously ran BSkyB before becoming chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox.
According to Ailes' biographer, Gabriel Sherman, writing in New York Magazine:
For much of the past 15 years, Roger Ailes has operated with virtual impunity inside Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Nothing, it seemed, could induce Murdoch to rebuke Ailes publicly, even if Ailes forced Murdoch to choose between him and his sons. Such was Ailes’s power that he has been able to run a right-wing political operation under the auspices of a news channel.Following the move by Ailes to amend the succession announcement, Fox went to the Hollywood Reporter to "correct the record" (emphasis theirs):
This week, for the first time, there are signs that this remarkable era may be entering its twilight. Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.
Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."
This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record.
Fox News' Roger Ailes to Report to James and Lachlan Murdoch, Not RupertBuried in the New York Magazine piece, however, are two noteworthy passages. The first is quoted above and repeated below:
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes will in fact report to James and Lachlan Murdoch when the sons of Rupert Murdoch assume control of 21st Century Fox on July 1.
The revelation comes after the Ailes-run Fox Business Network reported June 11 that Ailes would continue to report to Rupert even after Rupert handed official control of the company to his sons.
"Roger will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert,” 21st Century Fox spokesperson Nathaniel Brown said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
Rupert Murdoch will transition his CEO title to James, 42, who is currently co-COO, while Lachlan, 43, will become executive co-chairman, with their 84-year-old father focusing on his chairman role. Lachlan is currently nonexecutive co-chairman.
Such was Ailes’s power that he has been able to run a right-wing political operation under the auspices of a news channel.That's not news, but it adds a unique perspective to the demotion story. Rupert Murdoch is a political operator, not just a media mogul. He cares about power and profit, yes. But he also cares about moving the political needle and getting a political result. That's why Ailes was running Fox News for so long to begin with.
In that light, consider this:
Ailes’s contract is up in the winter of 2016. According to the many Murdoch-world sources I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, Ailes has been expecting to renew his deal. "Rupert is going to need me to elect the next president," Ailes is said to have told an associate.The piece goes on to say that Ailes may have overplayed his hand. But I'd just like to pause here.
We know Murdoch is trying to elect (and select) the next president. Is Roger Ailes necessary to that task? That is, has the right-wing media machine hamstrung its political operation by demoting Ailes in this messy way, a way that invites retaliation?
Having Ailes on the sidelines — or at least angry and "checked out" during the 2016 campaign — may be an unappreciated advantage for the Democrat, whoever that may be.