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Fox News Puts Karl Rove on the Bench

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 14:  political analyst and contributor Karl Rove of 'Fox News' speaks during day seven of the Fox Image Campaign 2008 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour held at the Beverly Hilton hotel on July 14, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The post-election soul searching going on inside the Republican Party is taking place inside Fox News as well. Fox News chief Roger Ailes, a canny marketer and protector of his network’s brand, has been taking steps since November to reposition Fox in the post-election media environment, freshening story lines — and in some cases, changing the characters. According to multiple Fox sources, Ailes has issued a new directive to his staff: He wants the faces associated with the election off the air — for now. For Karl Rove and Dick Morris — a pair of pundits perhaps most closely aligned with Fox’s anti-Obama campaign — Ailes’s orders mean new rules. Ailes’s deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking  Rove or  Morris. Both pundits made several appearances in the days after the election, but their visibility on the network has dropped markedly. Inside Fox News, Morris’s Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line. At a rehearsal on the Saturday before the election, according to a source, anchor Megyn Kelly chuckled when she relayed to colleagues what someone had told her: “I really like Dick Morris. He’s always wrong but he makes me feel good.”

A Fox spokesperson confirmed the new booking rules for Rove and Morris, and explained that Shine’s message was “the election’s over.” 

Multiple sources say that Ailes was angry at Rove’s election-night tantrum when he disputed the network’s call for Obama. While the moment made for riveting television — it was Ailes’s decision to have Kelly confront the statisticians on air — in the end, it provided another data point for Fox’s critics. A spokesperson for Ailes denied any rift between Ailes and Rove, and said the two plan to meet this week. 

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Photo: Frederick M. Brown/2008 Getty Images