Comments: Week of June 6, 2011

1. Gabriel Sherman’s cover story about Fox News chairman Roger Ailes’s alarm at the effect his successful programming—Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, et al.—was having on the 2012 presidential election (The Elephant in the Greenroom,” May 30) was, in the words of the Cutline blog on Yahoo, “this week’s must-read media feature,” providing “readers with a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the hermetic network.” Some of those readers, like blogger Andrew Sullivan, responded gleefully: “You could see this coming, even if Ailes couldn’tI thought he said that the only criterion that mattered was ratings. Even if they have helped drive the GOP off the cliff and alienated independents in droves. Maybe he should have thought of that before he created a propaganda channel that rewards and continues to reward the extremes.” A good deal of the commentary focused on what a “Republican close to Ailes” told Sherman: that “Roger thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid.” While Michael Calderone at the Huffington Post defended the decision to quote people without naming them (“when profiling a powerful person such as Ailes—who is not speaking on the record—I understand the reporter’s willingness to grant anonymity to someone who he feels can shed light on the subject’s thinking”), some on the right seemed disinclined to believe that the quote reflected Ailes’s true feelings. John Ziegler, a self-described “veteran of the Palin media wars,” wrote on the Daily Caller, “Since when is it acceptable ‘journalism’ to quote one (not multiple) anonymous ‘source’ claiming what someone else (who just went on the record defending her) ‘thinks’ about the mental capacity of someone who is currently not an officeholder or candidate?” And Bill Shine, the executive vice-president for programming at Fox News, released a statement to the Times, which the paper published on its Caucus blog asserting that “I know for a fact that Roger Ailes admires and respects Sarah Palin and thinks she is smart. He also believes many members of the left-wing media are extremely terrified and threatened by her … As for the ‘Republican close to Ailes’ for which the incorrect Palin quote is attributed, when Roger figures out who that is, I guarantee you he or she will no longer be ‘close to Ailes.’ ” For his part, Joe McGinniss, who is writing a book about Palin, blogged that while his “friendship with Roger precludes me from sharing anything he’s ever said to me about Sarah … 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.”

2. Jason Zengerle’s profile of David Brock, the onetime right-wing attack journalist who now runs an organization, Media Matters, that attacks right-wing journalism (“If I Take Down Fox, Is All Forgiven?,” May 30), was also considered a “must-read” by Time’s Swampland blog, among others. Jonah Goldberg at National Review’s the Corner blog found “much that is annoying but interesting” in it, though he also made the point that Brock was, in his view, hardly a modern-day Whittaker Chambers, the communist turned critic of communism. “Brock spends his days fact-checking Glenn Beck’s math as if the fate of Western civilization was at stake,” scoffed Goldberg. “If rich liberals think Blinded by the Right is akin to Witness or that their conversion narratives are meaningfully similar, they deserve to be bilked by Brock.” While some commenters on were dismissive of Media Matters as being, as one put it, “just hate speech wrapped in political correctness and doing just as Fox does, preaching to the choir exactly what they want to hear, truth be damned,” others see it as necessary balance. One wrote, “We are all entitled to our own opinion, but not our own facts … That’s the biggest problem with Fox News; too much of it is not ‘news’ at all but rather pro-GOP, pro-corporate name-calling propaganda … As for MSNBC and CNN, my only criticism of Media Matters is that I wish it would call out falsehoods on those networks as well. I suspect you’d find far fewer than on Fox, but still.”

3. Adam Platt’s memoir of his very expensive, all-expenses-paid junket to famed, soon-to-close Spanish restaurant El Bulli (Last Supper of the Food Hacks,” May 30) had some commenters salivating (“Is it too late to ask for a dish-by-dish annotated photo gallery?” wrote one left unsated by those pictures provided), others feeling a bit sick (“A gloating, masturbatory horror of an article”), and some not sure how to feel (“Does preemptively calling the article a boondoggle excuse or justify its being ridiculous? ”). It so stuck in Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s craw that he took the time to parody it on the Times’ Diner’s Journal.

4. Clarification: In The Good Bad Son (May 30), it should have been noted that C&O Resources was brought on to advise Saif Qaddafi and Libyan officials about Bush-administration policy; while Sandra Charles visited Libya in June 2004, she did not attend an economic conference Saif hosted.

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Comments: Week of June 6, 2011