After a speech at Ohio University last week, Fox News boss Roger Ailes grabbed a few headlines thanks to his usual invective: Jon Stewart is an admitted socialist, only Fox really loves America, and those liberal clowns at the New York Times are a” bunch of lying scum.” While typically Ailes’s feisty talking points would roil the media savvy for a few minutes, this time, Ailes’s absurd claims are getting some more mileage, though not for their trenchant analysis — it turns out that in accusing others of lying, Ailes just flat-out fibbed.
Although Fox News requested that the Ailes talk not be filmed, a full transcript of his remarks made its way online over the holiday weekend, and reveals an extended Ailes riff that’s almost entirely fiction. First, he claims that former Times executive editor Bill Keller “got fired because he was putting the editorials on the front page as news,” before calling the paper a “cesspool” of bias:
Ailes: Let me tell you, let me give you an example. What if you got up on a Thursday morning and the front page of The New York Times said you were going to be indicted on Monday. How would you feel about that? Let’s assume you hadn’t done anything and don’t know anything about it. That happened to me. I got up on a Thursday morning and it said Roger will be indicted on Monday. … And do you know what they used for their source? They said somebody was overheard in the waiting room of a Barbados airport saying it. That was their source for that story.
Did you call them on it?
Ailes: Because they’re a bunch of lying scum and they’re not going to do anything about it. They did it on purpose, they did it deliberately and they didn’t have anything. I’m sure they couldn’t produce the guy in the Barbados airport.
That didn’t happen. The Times story in question, about Ailes encouraging Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators, does not state that Ailes was to be indicted; it actually says, “Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.” The indictment rumor stems from the blog of Barry Ritholtz, who has nothing to do with the Times.
Through an anonymous “senior Fox News executive,” with the help of an unquestioning Howard Kurtz, Ailes backtracked on his Times comments a bit last week. He reportedly “realizes he went too far and regrets using that language,” to say nothing of the fact that his illustrating anecdote was not true at all. Whereas someone actually concerned with the truth, let alone journalism, might come forward to clarify their mistake, we should all know Roger Ailes way better than to expect another word on the subject.