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Citizen Ailes

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Foley quickly lost interest in the job, and Ailes lost interest in him. Later that summer, Ailes hired Maureen Hunt, a Fox News human-resources employee and Philipstown resident, to edit the paper, but she didn’t last long.

As summer turned to fall, political issues began to arise. Alison Rooney, the copy editor, at first found reasons to be optimistic about the ownership change. She liked using the new computers to put out the paper and looked forward to the newsroom moving into a renovated two-story building on Main Street. But that honeymoon ended when Rooney laid out a press release from the Garrison Art Center that described a work invoking the “mythological story” of the Virgin Birth. After the release was published, the priest of Our Lady of Loretto wrote a letter to the editor, and Beth Ailes lit into Rooney. A few weeks later, Rooney got another dressing-down as she formatted a promotion of the high school’s upcoming production of Urinetown, this time from an editor who found the language offensive and removed the title of the show from the headline.

Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.

Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”

Soon afterward, Turton learned that Maureen Hunt had resigned, and Ailes continued his quest to bring “fair and balanced” to Philipstown.

In February 2009, Ailes met Joe Lindsley, a 25-year-old journalist, for lunch in his private third-floor dining room at Fox News. A fast-rising star in the conservative movement, Lindsley had attended Notre Dame, where he launched The Irish Rover to combat the liberal bias of the Notre Dame News. A fervent Catholic with a booming voice and a certain youthful likeness to Ailes, Lindsley inspired his classmates with his earnest sense of mission, once leading a pilgrimage to northern Michigan to visit the home of conservative historian Russell Kirk. After graduating, he worked for The Weekly Standard, assisting executive editor (and Fox News contributor) Fred Barnes, before moving over to the magazine’s culture section.

After they spoke, Ailes offered Lindsley the position of editor-in-chief, asking him to start right away. Ailes was in the process of buying a second paper, The Putnam County Courier, out of bankruptcy and needed a committed journalist to run the newsrooms of his budding publishing enterprise. Lindsley jumped at the opportunity to work directly for an icon of the cause. Without time to line up an apartment, Lindsley moved into the pool house on the north end of Roger and Beth’s property.

When Lindsley moved to Philipstown in the winter of 2009, Ailes’s mountain was a topic of intense conversation on Cold Spring’s Main Street, comedy and rumor mixing with paranoia. “[Ailes] was said to have ordered the removal of all trees around his house so that he … had a 360-degree view of any leftist assault teams preparing to rush the house,” Leonora Burton, the owner of the Country Goose shop on Main Street, recalled. Roger and Beth also bought up as many surrounding houses as they could. Security cameras were installed throughout the property. “A team of landscapers was, in the absence of the Ailes family, working on the grounds of the compound,” Burton later recounted. “They were planting a tree when the boss’s cell phone rang. It was the absent Beth. ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘That’s not where I want the tree. I insist that you move it.’ She directed them to the correct site. The landscapers were puzzled until they realized that the many security cameras on the grounds had captured them at work. Beth had been watching them from wherever she was and called to correct the tree planting.” Other local contractors helped install a bunker that could weather a terrorist attack underneath their mansion. “He can live in there for more than six months,” a friend who has visited it said. “There are bedrooms, a couple of TVs, water, and freeze-dried food.” “I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Ailes’s older brother Robert said. “I think the proper term is a ‘panic room.’ ”


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