"As of November 9, there will be a bloodbath at Fox"
Roger Ailes with his wife, Elizabeth Tilson, on July 19 in New York City. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images (source)
by Gaius Publius
In case you're wondering about the date in the headline, November 9 is the first day following the next U.S. election.
Thanks to a heads-up by digby, I took time to read Gabriel Sherman's excellent New York Magazine piece, "The Revenge of Roger’s Angels: How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media," from start to finish in one sitting. I strongly recommend you do the same — it's an excellent example of investigative journalism as well as investigative writing. The piece is a page-turner, and it's very well written.
There's too much information in it to capture here, but near the end there's a section that discusses what Fox becomes post-Ailes, and I'd like to focus on that. If Sherman is right on both of his counts — about the changes at Fox, about the emergence of Trump TV — the media landscape will drastically change post-election.
Will that change be for the better? That's a consideration for another time.
Fox After Ailes
On what Fox is about to become, Sherman writes:
Ailes’s ouster has created a leadership vacuum at Fox News. Several staffers have described feeling like being part of a totalitarian regime whose dictator has just been toppled. “No one knows what to do. No one knows who to report to. It’s just mayhem,” said a Fox host. As details of the Paul, Weiss [a law firm] investigation have filtered through the offices, staffers are expressing a mixture of shock and disgust. The scope of Ailes’s alleged abuse far exceeds what employees could have imagined. “People are so devastated,” one senior executive said. Those I spoke with have also been unnerved by [senior executive VP Bill] Shine and [Fox general counsel Dianne] Brandi’s roles in covering up Ailes’s behavior.You may remember the name Rebekah Brooks from the U.K. phone-tapping scandal (emphasis added):
Despite revelations of how Ailes’s management team enabled his harassment, Murdoch has so far rejected calls — including from [Murdoch's son] James, according to sources — to conduct a wholesale housecleaning. On August 12, Murdoch promoted Shine and another Ailes loyalist, Jack Abernethy, to become co-presidents of Fox News. He named Scott executive vice-president and kept Brandi and [PR department executive Irena] Briganti in their jobs. Fox News’s chief financial officer, Mark Kranz, is the only senior executive to have been pushed out (officially he retired), along with [Ailes’s longtime executive assistant Judy] Laterza and a handful of assistants, contributors, and consultants. “Of course, they are trying to isolate this to just a few bad actors,” a 21st Century Fox executive told me.
Many people I spoke with believe that the current management arrangement is just a stopgap until the election. “As of November 9, there will be a bloodbath at Fox,” predicts one host. “After the election, the prime-time lineup could be eviscerated. O’Reilly’s been talking about retirement. Megyn could go to another network. And Hannity will go to Trump TV.” ...
Meanwhile, the Murdochs are looking for a permanent CEO to navigate these post-Ailes, Trump-roiled waters. According to sources, James’s preferred candidates include CBS president David Rhodes (though he is under contract with CBS through 2019); Jesse Angelo, the New York Post publisher and James’s Harvard roommate; and perhaps a television executive from London. Sources say [Murdoch's son] Lachlan, who politically is more conservative than James, wants to bring in an outsider. Rupert was seen giving Rebekah Brooks a tour of the Fox offices several months ago, creating speculation that she could be brought in to run Fox. Another contender is Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy.
Brooks was a prominent figure in the News International phone hacking scandal, having been the editor of the News of the World when illegal phone hacking was carried out by the newspaper. Following a criminal trial in 2014 she was cleared of all charges by a jury at the Old Bailey, which accepted her defence of incompetence: that she had no knowledge of the illegal acts carried out by the newspaper she edited.O"Reilly, Hannity, Megyn Kelly and more, all could be gone from Fox News after the election. It will be interesting to watch Fox reinvent itself as the competitor to what may be a network to its right, Trump TV, a network perhaps run by the attack dog, Roger Ailes, who turned Fox into what it used to be.
In September 2015, Brooks was confirmed as CEO of News UK, the renamed News International, re-establishing the working relationship with News Corp founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Trump TV, if it emerges after the election, will throw a spanner into the workings of a once unified right-wing (and alt-right) messaging ecosystem:
The prospect of Trump TV is a source of real anxiety for some inside Fox. The candidate took the wedge issues that Ailes used [in order] to build a loyal audience at Fox News — especially race and class — and used them to stoke barely containable outrage among a downtrodden faction of conservatives. Where that outrage is channeled after the election — assuming, as polls now suggest, Trump doesn’t make it to the White House — is a big question for the Republican Party and for Fox News.As right-wing as they are, both Trump and Murdoch care about the money that goes to the most-watched media outlets. They're about to become competitors for it:
Trump had a complicated relationship with Fox even when his good friend Ailes was in charge; without Ailes, it’s plausible that he will try to monetize the movement he has galvanized in competition with the network rather than in concert with it. Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, chairman of Breitbart, the digital-media upstart that has by some measures already surpassed Fox News as the locus of conservative energy, to run his campaign suggests a new right-wing news network of some kind is a real possibility.And notice this tidbit, a hint of the infighting to come:
One prominent media executive told me that if Trump loses, Fox will need to try to damage him in the eyes of its viewers by blaming him for the defeat.A battle for the eyes of the "deplorables" (an unfortunate, though interesting word) between Fox News and Trump TV — as well as for eyes and minds of the non-deplorable segment of the Trump-supporting world — should be fascinating to watch. One hopes they split the pie as they knife-fight to own it. I'd rather see an electorally divided "deplorables" than to see that group united, no matter how weakened their numbers.
As to the non-deplorable portion of Trump supporters — those suffering from the economic ravages of both pro-wealth Democratic rule and pro-wealth Republican rule — perhaps a newly populist Democratic Party can attract them for a change, instead of drive them away. Until a bad deed is done, one can hope for a good result.
Again, if you can spare the time, do read the whole thing. It's fascinating, incredibly lurid, and very well documented. If sexual office politics is your cup of tea, you'll drown in it. Fox News was a pit of predatory males, office women retained and passed around for sex, and mid-to-upper-level executives (of both sexes) who acted as procurers — "talent scouts" — to feed one toxic man's toxic need, along with the needs of those around him. Some of those needs were simply to survive in that kind of environment.
And Ailes? He's still at it, reportedly advising Trump as we speak. Lord help us.