Fox News chief Roger Ailes knew Karl Rove’s election night meltdown was television gold the second it started. Having given up on Mitt Romney’s chances, he had already gone home. “I turn on the TV and the first thing I see is Rove saying something like ‘you called Ohio too early.’ And I thought, ‘What the? What is this?’” Ailes explained to TV Newser in a rare interview. “So I quickly called [EVP of News] Michael Clemente and I said, ‘Michael whatever you do, don’t go to commercial. Don’t leave the screen.” In Ailes’s mind, he values good TV above all else, and doesn’t comprehend how people could consider him a partisan.
“I didn’t want the public or our competitors to say we somehow panicked and didn’t confront the truth on camera,” Ailes said of that fateful early November night. “As it turned out Rove was wrong. He backed down. Our guys were right. We stayed with it. Megyn did her famous walk down the hall. And it all worked out.” (As a Fox insider told New York’s Gabriel Sherman, “This is Fox News, so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.”)
“I don’t care about my legacy,” Ailes said during the same sit-down. “It’s too late. My enemies will create it and they’ll push it.” He also insisted that the next four years won’t necessarily be about tearing down President Obama. “It’s day to day for us,” Ailes said. “We don’t — I know no one believes it — we have no agenda.” He and Bill O’Reilly will be scratching their heads, or slyly grinning, into eternity.