Roger Ailes has been a friend of mine for 44 years. Most people think I first met him when he was working for Richard Nixon and I was researching The Selling of The President 1968, but we actually got to know each other a year earlier, when I was writing a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Roger was producing the nationally syndicated Mike Douglas show in Philadelphia.
If Roger and I have ever agreed about anything having to do with politics or policy, I sure can’t remember it. From Richard Nixon to Rupert Murdoch, I think everyone he’s ever worked for has harmed this country in some way. I also think Fox News is an excrescence. And Roger knows that. Mutual candor is one aspect of our friendship. Roger’s terrific sense of humor is another: he is one of the funniest people I know. I don’t think I’ve spent five minutes in his company, privately, without laughing out loud at least three times at things he’s said.
But the one quality Roger possesses that I admire above all others–and it is undoubtedly the one least known and appreciated by those who deal with him only professionally–is his generosity of spirit. Roger will do anything for a friend. My respect for his privacy prevents me from getting into detail, but I know this first-hand. Maybe someday, when he’s retired, he’ll let me tell people about his extraordinary loyalty, unselfishness and generosity.
Roger and I are in frequent contact by email, we talk by phone at least monthly, and we get together for lunch or dinner at least a couple of times a year. We talk far more about family than politics. I gave up trying to convert him years ago, and he’s known from my Philadelphia newspaper days that I was beyond redemption from his point of view.
When we do talk politics, it’s always off the record. Because Roger knows I’ll never violate a confidence, he has no qualms about telling me exactly what he thinks of the various high-profile political and media people with whom he deals. So I can’t, for example, tell you what Roger really thinks of Sarah Palin.
But I’ve just read Gabriel Sherman’s terrific, in-depth story about Fox News, the Republican party and Roger in the new issue of New York magazine. It contains this quote, from “another Republican close to Ailes”:
Roger thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid.”
As I say, my friendship with Roger precludes me from sharing anything he’s ever said to me about Sarah.
But I can say that I think Gabriel Sherman is one of the best young journalists in America. If it’s in a story he wrote, I believe it.
And thinking back to the lunch Roger and I had in a private dining room at Fox headquarters in July, 2009, just after Sarah had quit as governor of Alaska, I have no doubt that the above quote is accurate.
Of course, Roger hired her anyway. He hasn’t built Fox News into a nearly $1-billion per year company by letting his personal opinions interfere with his programming instincts.
And if you’d like to know what Roger thinks of Sarah as a possible GOP nominee in 2012, pay particular attention, in Sherman’s story, to the part about how hard Roger is pressing New Jersey governor Chris Christie to enter the race.
As is always the case with Sarah–and this is a point I make repeatedly in THE ROGUE–those who know her best like her least.