Gabriel Sherman – Roger Ailes, the Loudest Voice in the Room

February 24, 2014

This week Point of Inquiry welcomes Gabriel Sherman, writer and contributing editor for New York Magazine and author of the new book The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country. The book takes an indepth look at Roger Ailes, the conservative mastermind and president of Fox News Channel, and the effect he has had on American culture.

Sherman interviewed over 600 people and spent years compiling a history of Ailes, from the 1960s when Ailes was a producer for the “Mike Douglas Show,” through Ailes’ time with the Nixon administration, all the way to his reign at Fox News.

This week we venture into the mind, motivations and mission of the heart of right wing news.

This is point of inquiry from Monday, February 24th, 2014. 

I’m Josh Zepps, host of Huff Post Live, and this is the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit that defends reason science and secularism, one media outlet that does manifestly not defend reason, science and secularism. Is Fox News. Today’s guest has spent the past few years investigating Fox News’s creator mastermind CEO Grant Pumar, the wizard behind the curtain. Roger Ailes. The result is the bombshell new book, The Loudest Voice in the Room How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country. And its author, Gabriel Sherman, a contributing editor at New York Magazine, is with us. Thanks for being here, Gabe. Thanks for having me. Let’s just start with the basics. What what is Fox News? You know, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch say this is a news organization. 

It’s a newsgathering organization. It has a conservative bent during its editorial period of the night. You know, when you have Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, they say, yes, MSNBC has a left wing bent. We have a conservative bent. They’re unabashed about that. But the actual newsgathering itself outside of the opinion shows is pure journalism. Is that true? 

That is not true. Fox News is a political organization that exists to do two things, make as much profit as possible for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. And secondly, and I would say more importantly, advance the political agenda of Roger Ailes, the founder and visionary behind the network. Now, Fox does have journalists on its payroll. They do news stories, but those news stories exist to give the audience enough of what they feel they need in terms of news, to keep them tuned in all day to advance the politics behind behind that which which are Roger Ailes is right wing politics. You know, Roger Ailes feels that the media is no different than politics. He made his his career as a Republican political strategist and as a PR guru. And so he feels that the rest of the media exists to help liberals. So Fox News is his campaign to advance conservative ideas. 

What tools does he have at his disposal to do that other than the opinion shows? So we we know about Hannity and O’Reilly and and so on. Are you claiming that he also uses the news portions of Fox News to advance a conservative agenda or use? 

Are you claiming that they’re just scaffolding to get eyeballs to to the to the opinion makers? 

No, it is all about the entire package. Now, the way Fox News operates is that there is a morning editorial meeting that Roger Ailes runs. It takes place in his office on the second floor of Rupert Murdoch’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. And Roger Ailes will deliver a monologue about the news where he gives his right wing take on different issues, whether it’s climate change, Obamacare, foreign policy, you name it. And Roger Ailes monologues and his executive sit there nodding their heads and taking notes. And that message then filters out throughout the day to all of the news programs and continuing on into primetime. You know, they joked inside the channel that Roger Ailes is meetings were so entertaining that the best show on Fox News is actually his own meeting. And in several years ago, there was a joke that maybe they would even put a camera in the office. And so that Roger Ailes would host his own show, which would be his freewheeling rightwing monologues about the news. Now, that didn’t happen. But I think that’s important to point out that that’s exactly how Fox News works. So there’s not this clean church state division between news and editorial. It’s all one and the same. 

And you say that in these meetings, people are terrified of him. Right. What is it about not catching the dinosaurs? Someone said yes. 

No, it’s a T. Rex, isn’t it? Yeah. Someone who’s a longtime meeting. Go or joke to me that it’s like the scene in Jurassic Park where they they say if you don’t move, the T rex won’t see you. He is a domineering and terrifying executive. Really, FOX News is in addition to being a political organization. It’s a cult of personality around Ailes. And everyone who’s in his inner circle exists to serve at his pleasure. And they all try to prove their loyalty to him. And they’re both in awe of him and his and his charismatic leadership, but also terrified of him. I mean, he’s he’s throws things. He screams. You know, he’s so I think that it’s important to note that the entire channel is a reflection of him. And that’s why I set out to write this book about him, because I wanted to write a history of Fox News because it’s the most influential media force in our culture over the last 20 years. But when I started that research, I realized that you cannot write about Fox without doing it through the life and career of Roger Ailes, because Fox News is Roger Ailes speak a bit more to the cult like nature of working at Fox News. 

I mean, I’ve had I have colleagues who who used to work there who say it’s much more it feels much more like you’re part of a mission than part of a newsgathering enterprise. In other words, it feels it’s a little bit reminiscent of being in a cult and that you’re all you’re all in this together. And if you break ranks and if you start to be too independent or get too far out of line of what you’re old, you’re all up to, you feel this incredible pressure cooker environment that you feel like the walls are closing in. 

Yeah, it’s you know, it is eerie how much of a cult like environment he has created. You know, it manifests itself in ways small and large. I’ll give you a small way and then I’ll give you a large way. You know, several years ago, Ailes got it in his head that he did not like Brown University. He thought he said a joke to someone. There’s never been a conservative who went to Brown. So he had his trusted human resources executive pour through the employment files of all the Fox News employees hunting for anyone who went to Brown. You went on a witch hunt. And so that’s a case where he just decided to go, you know, try to find out anyone he felt was disloyal. You know, that’s kind of funny. But here’s a real way that it, man. If you break ranks, you can see what. In the 2008 presidential election, a young Fox producer who is covering Sarah Palin’s campaign as John McCain’s vice presidential nominee was one of the many reporters who felt that the McCain campaign was completely shielding Palin was not allowing Palin to actually answer any questions from the real press. And so this young reporter went on Fox News and reported that fact, which many other mainstream journalists were reporting. And Ailes heard this and he flipped out. He said, why is one of our people criticizing Palin? And she was pulled off the air. She was no longer allowed to appear on Fox News shows. And after the campaign, she left the network to write a book. She just was essentially forced out. So that’s a case where you see that your entire career can be derailed if you step out of line. And everyone who works inside that bill building is terrified of aless PR apparatus. The public relations department at Fox News is essentially like a surveillance apparatus that they everyone feels that they’re being monitored, their conversations are being listened to, their emails are being read. And it’s that kind of thought control that that makes it feel like you’re at a cult and you’re not at a news organization. 

I mean, it might be it might be true that it’s a crappy place to work and it might be true that it has a pernicious effect on unpopular culture. If you’re a progressive and you don’t agree with Roger Ailes ideals. 

But is there anything morally wrong with running a media company the way that he does? I mean, propaganda is bad if the government is responsible for it. But in a free marketplace of ideas, it kind of case must be made. Well, all right. He’s allowed to put out whatever opinions he wants to. People can consume them or not consume them. And if you want to respond to him, then you can create your own Left-Wing channel and try to do so. 

Well, I’ve I’ve been asked that, and I, I do agree that, you know, the First Amendment is a bedrock of American democracy. And as a reporter, I make my living because we’re allowed as as journalists and thinkers to have to have the freedom to do that. And so I I do agree. I get very squeamish when sometimes you hear people mainly on the left say, oh, well, FOX News should not be allowed to do what they do, because I don’t like this idea of a government starting to decide what is fair game and what is not. What I do think is is pernicious about Fox and why I think, you know, it makes it so controversial is that Ailes is telling the world that he’s giving his audience fair and balanced news, real news, when, in fact, it is his personal megaphone. It is. Roger Ailes is propaganda. And so I think, you know, it raises moral questions because Ailes is essentially lying to his audience. But in terms of legal and kind of societal questions, I don’t think there really should be a conversation about Fox News not being allowed to do what they do, because that’s kind of not part of the American system. 

When you say Roger Ailes is lying, when he says that his that he’s producing fair and balanced news, do you think that he thinks that he’s lying? Well, do you think that he thinks that the rest of the media is skewed and biased in his and he’s presenting a more balanced picture? 

You know, I’ve. I as a reporter, I try not to get in people’s heads. I’m not a novelist. 

I’ll go on, speculate novelist away. 

Well, you know, I, I, I’m more focused on what Ailes said. And what I find so fascinating is that there is such a split between what he says in public and what he says in private, which kind of maybe will help answer your question. So in public, Ailes will say that the American people are very smart. Fox News is objective and they can you know, American people will know when they’re being duped. But in private, you know, I went to the Nixon archive and I consulted all of these memos, the secret memos he wrote back in 1968 when he was a young television adviser to the Nixon campaign. And in these documents, he’ll say things like TV is a hit and run medium. The world is simply too complicated. The audience can’t process information. So to his political allies, he’s essentially saying, yeah, we can lie and we can pull a fast one on the audience. But then in public, when he gives interviews, he says, oh, no, FOX News is totally straightforward with their audience. And so that’s what I think is so interesting. Is that so to answer your question, I do think he thinks he’s pulling a fast one because he knows that TV is a deceptive medium and you can use propaganda techniques to manipulate an audience, but that can only work if the audience feels like they are getting real news, which is why throughout Box’s history, it was essential. It was fundamental that the fair and balanced fiction be maintained. You know, one of the things that Fox News’s PR department did ruthlessly punish reporters for, they would demand corrections. They would harass news outlets. That reported Fox was conservative because if the audience felt they were getting right wing talking points, they would tune out because they would feel like, well, we don’t want to be we don’t want to be spun. We want the truth. So Ailes needed to convince the audience that Fox News was no different than any other news outfit, whether it’s The New York Times. CNN and for much of Fox is history, I think he succeeded. I think what my book does without a question is reveal what Fox News is. And it is a political organization. And, you know, they can do what they do. But there should be no doubt in the world’s mind about what Fox News is and who Ailes is. 

What do you think Rupert Murdoch wants it to be? What do you think his motivations are often? I’m so curious, obviously, as an Australian, about about Rupert Murdoch, the man and how he’s come to gain so much power is coming from such such humble beginnings down under. And I wonder I wonder whether is he purely in this game? Because he might. It makes a lot of money. And if left wing propaganda made as much money as Fox News does, would he be in that game or does he have an ideological barrow to push the transcends profit? 

Well, I think profit is that the prime mover, Rupert is Murdoch is, you know, historically been a conservative who has been pro mattick, pragmatic and willing to forge unlikely alliances, whether it’s new labor in in Great Britain under Tony Blair or Hillary Clinton here in America. 

In 2006, he made no moves to get behind Hillary’s candidacy. 

So Murdoch’s pragmatic and sorry to interrupt, but we’ll just take him aside to mention the anecdote about Roger Ailes pushing back on Murdoch’s endorsement of Hillary. Well, it was more Obama alehouse sorry, it was Obama. Yeah, that’s right. 

But Ailes is not happy that Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Hillary in 2006. But when he heard that Murdoch was considering endorsing Obama in the pages of The New York Post in 2008, he had a total cow. He ran, walked into his office and essentially confronted him and said, is this true? And indicated that he was willing to quit if it was true. And Murdoch blinked, told Ailes he wasn’t gonna do it and did not want Ailes to quit. And The New York Post endorsed John McCain. So I think Murdoch really views Fox News at this point as a profit center. It is the most profitable division of his entire media empire. It essentially allows Murdoch to do what he wants to do, which is continue to own newspapers and continue to own The New York Post, which is a famously money losing operation. So Fox News gives Murdoch the freedom to continue to play in the media world. Personally, him and Ailes are not particularly close. Ailes is much further rightwing to the right wing than the Murdoch is. But he needs Ailes. And so whenever Ailes flexes his muscle, it’s really Murdoch is the one who backs down. 

How popular is Fox News? It’s easy when we live in the Northeast or in California to kind of dismiss it and just to think of it in the same category as all of the bocking right wing talk show hosts who are out there, the Huckabees and and so on. What’s the viewership like in comparison to other cable channels? 

Well, it has twice the audience of CNN and MSNBC, which is kind of not remarkable when you think of it. It has a tremendously loyal audience. You know, people who watch Fox News watch statistically far longer than any other cable news network. You know, FOX is so popular in certain parts of the country, the south, particularly Florida, Texas, the middle of America, that cable companies, the big cable operators must carry Fox News. You know, there’s really only a couple of channels that cable systems need to carry. ESPN, Fox News, those kinds of channels. And so their loyalty is such that they have ultimate leverage in negotiating with cable companies, the rates that they pay to carry it. It is almost like for certain people. This is background noise. It’s like a white noise machine that they leave on all day. I mean, you hear stories of people who have left Fox News. I mean, here’s an example. Early in the network’s history, the little logo, the Fox News logo that was on the left lower left corner of the screen. It’s called the bug. And it was a static logo is just sitting there on the screen and viewers would call the channel and to complain that they were burning their TV because when they turned it off at night, there would be a ghost image of the Fox News logo literally burned. Wow. So then the graphics the graphics department developed a spinning logo that would rotate almost like a screensaver because the TV was left on the channel so long. So that’s an indication of how if you are part of the Fox News tribe, it is almost like a religion. 

How different. I wonder how different you think American culture would be had there never been a Fox News. I mean, it’s a sort of a chicken and egg kind of question. 

Like is is the desire in in Florida and in Texas and in these places the desire for a sense of patriotism and a sense of outrage and for a sense of that the good old fashioned American values are slipping through our fingers and that this country’s going to hell in a handbasket. Is that what drives Fox News? 

Or is Fox News kind of creating and feeding that in a way that if it weren’t here, it would make a real, genuine difference to the American political conversation? 

I think without a doubt, one of aless lasting legacies is that he has sustained the culture wars that defined America in the late 1960s and early 70s. You know, that coalition that voted for Richard Nixon, the famous silent majority without Fox News, that that coalition would not have had a home to continue to animate themselves and get exercised about certain issues, whether it’s immigration, foreign policy and health care reform. I mean, Ailes has appealed and driven those wedges through our culture that has sustained the old fights of the 60s, whether whether or not those people would would have changed their minds about Fox. I mean, that’s an impasse. That’s a counterfactual. We’ll never know. But I do think Ailes has sustains the culture wars in ways that that may not have happened without him because Fox and Fox gave them a place to call their home. I mean, that two thousand. I think one other point that George W. Bush years were defined by Fox News. You know, the rest of the media was forced to adopt that kind of hyper patriotism after 9/11. Because Fox News. Really, was this lightning rod in the culture that was the year that Fox News passed in to become the most dominant cable channel. You know, Ailes really changed the entire media. And so I think that’s another case that without Fox, you know, perhaps the way America responded to 9/11 might have been different. 

In what way? 

You know, I I in researching my book, I went back and I watched Fox News’s coverage of 9/11 the literally the day the tragedy, the terrible attacks happened. And you saw on Fox News from the very you know, within an hour or two of the towers coming down, the entire rhetoric of the Bush years, the US first the world, that immediately this was a military, an act of war that required a crushing military response. The idea that you’re either with America or you’re against America, those politics were what was on Fox News all day long. And that kind of wounded patriotism was that that defined the post 9/11 years was what Fox is putting on the screen. And I think they forced the rest of the media and not force, but the rest. The media naturally adopted that tone because that was what was resonating with the audience. Ailes knows. What to appeal to the dark side of human nature and Fox Fox success after 9/11 showed the rest of the media that that is what the audience wants. And rather than stepping back and kind of doing what journalists should be doing, which is kind of skeptically and soberly covering issues, I think the rest of the media got on board with that. That sense of wounded patriotism and left their skeptic skepticism at the door. 

It’s interesting you say that because I think the natural response when you’re attacked is to be reactive, to be thoughtless, to to want to strike back. I mean, I think we all felt like that on September 12th, 2001. You know, there wasn’t a lot of clear headedness going on. And that’s a completely understandable reaction. It almost sounds like you’re saying that what that Fox News is abrogating its responsibility, the responsibility that we think journalists have to be a voice of reason to be a voice of sanity, to pull back, to not react in the knee-jerk ways that human beings are naturally hardwired to react. But to allow people to think about things in context that are more complicated, more nuanced than our automatic reactions. It’s almost like Fox News is just an ordinary person reacting in the media sphere instead of doing the job of what journalists are supposed to do, which is not be an ordinary person and bring a little bit more insight to things, without a doubt. 

I mean, you had things being said on Fox News, like in the Run-Up to the Iraq War. Bill O’Reilly said that anyone who opposed the war once the war began, he would consider them a, quote, enemy of the state. I mean, that kind of talk, that kind of talk where any kind of skepticism and dissent was was was literally spoken of as a type of treason was, in my mind, kind of scary. But that’s what that’s what you saw on Fox News. And it was such a powerful message that connected with so many people, because Ailes knew that that’s what that’s what voters that was what the country was feeling emotionally was what I think made them so powerful. And it was, you know, going back and reporting on that time in history was was kind of a harrowing experience for me, because you saw that it wasn’t wasn’t only Fox News. The entire media is in my entire media establishment, with a few exceptions, really failed to report skeptically in the aftermath of 9/11. 

I think I still remember, I think was Al Franken, who was interviewed on Fox News once, and it was after they just started wearing. Well, I think they’ve always been doing this, but it was often it was off the beginning of the Iraq war and all the hosts were wearing flag pin, you know, American flag pin lapels. He wore three flag pin lapels to show that he was three times as patriotic as Sean Hannity, which I thought was a cute gag. Talk to us about who Roger Ailes is then. Where did you grow up? How did he become to hold these beliefs and to be so ambitious? 

Well, you know, regardless of of anyone’s politics, it’s undeniable that Ailes is an incredible American story. He grew up in a factory town in northeast Ohio. He was born in 1940. And 1940 is a really interesting year because he was born before the baby boom. And, you know, right before the baby boom generation and came of age in 1940 and 1950s America when America was on top of the world after World War Two. And his father was a really interesting influence on his life because he was a volatile, domineering man. He was a factory foreman, worked at a automotive parts plant as a maintenance foreman, running the janitorial crew. And Ailes saw his father as sort of a failure. And his father never achieved much in life, never went to college. And it was that kind of resentment and the grievance that other people had better than him that I think you see on the screen at Fox News this hostility to educated in and East Coast elites. I think also one of the things that define Ailes is childhood was both his disability. He’s a hemophiliac. And he grew up at a time when hemophilia, the blood disorder, was a very severe medical condition. The average life expectancy for someone with a severe case of hemophilia was 10 or 11 years old. And so Ale’s had a very fragile view of the world. He was had a fatalistic view and he decided that he was not going to let his disease hold him back. And that fueled his domineering will to succeed. The other influence, I’ll point out to other actually was his father’s violence. In interviews that I had with Roger Ailes, his brother, he described how volatile his father was, how he would come home. And if the boys were not quiet, he would pull out his butt belt and savagely beat them and whip them. Not to the point that they cry. But to the point that they learned to suppress their fears because he wanted their screams, because he wanted it quiet. I mean, just really chilling stuff. And the other thing that defined aless childhood was television, because he came of age at a time when television was revolutionizing American culture and American media. And Ailes had this kind of preternatural ability to understand it. He would sit at. Watching television, he figured out what worked and how to, you know, how the camera angles work and how the characters worked and how to actually literally understand it and deconstruct it. And so when he took a job as a young producer on the daytime television show, The Mike Douglas Show in the early 1960s, he almost like found a calling, like he had this natural ability to just figure it out. And within several years, he was running the show. He had taken it over. He had deposed his boss and he’d become the executive producer. And so I think Roger Ailes is one of these people. You know, Mark Zuckerberg, you know, we think of Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook, right? He understood coding and computers. I think for television, Roger Ailes really was that kind of savant who understood the medium and came of age at a time when it was transforming American culture. 

How did he end up at Fox News? How did he end up creating that thing? Did Rupert come to him? 

He he had this journey through American politics and show business that culminated with Fox News. As I mentioned, he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. It was a daytime variety show hosted by former big band singer. And it was a kind of show that if anyone was in politics or show business, they needed to come to a stop on. And it was on the set of the Mike Douglas Show in 68. And he talked his way into a job on Nixon’s presidential campaign as a television adviser. From that moment that Ailes realized that his yes. Was using techniques of the television to improve, manipulate the image of politicians. And after the 68 campaign, Ailes came to New York City and opened up shop as a political consultant. And so for the next really twenty five plus years, Ailes gravitated between the worlds of television and politics. He was an image adviser. He was a TV producer. He was a Broadway producer and impresario. He was this kind of creative man behind the behind the scenes who used show business techniques to sell Republican politicians to American voters. You as an adviser, Rich, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, a whole host of publican leaders. 

And really, the techniques brought to Fox, you’re dropping out a little bit. 

But I’m interested you were saying earlier about what a vindictive kind of guy is, what a violent guy is, and his his temper rage isn’t how how punitive he can be against people who are his enemies. You’ve gone into this and written this very, very critical book of him about him. 

Were you ever concerned that he would retaliate? 

Well, I. I know that he retaliated against me. You know, one of the most revealing experiences I had as a reporter working on this book was the way Ailes responded to it. You know, he may not have intended it, but he kind of demonstrated to me what kind of man he is, the way he treated me as a reporter. You know, I approached him and his advisers more than three years ago and and told him I was going to be doing this book and I would love him to participate. But I made it clear that I was going to go out and do my reporting in my research whether or not Ailes played ball with me. And very early on, he just started doing things that that developed a counter narrative, you know, through surrogates. Right wing blogs, you know, completely distorted me and my and my journalism in in articles I always portrayed on right wing media sites as a Soros George Soros backed attack dog. One article called me Jason Blair on steroids. A reference to the disgraced former New York Times reporter who was caught making up articles after one really damaging right wing article. I got a death threat on my phone from some some kooky guy. I didn’t know I was a very kind of harassing kind of treatment I got from the conservatives who were, through my own knowledge, acting on behalf of Ailes. And so that was I think he was trying to intimidate me into not doing the book. The other thing he did, which I found incredibly revealing, is that he went out and he got a more sympathetic writer to basically write a hagiography about him. He worked with Rush Limbaugh’s hand-picked biographer to write a glowing account that completely sanitized and whitewashed the way Fox News really works. But Ailes hoped that if he could create a counter narrative, he would appeal to his audience. And I think the one thing that that showed me is that that’s what Fox News does every single day with the news. They create a counter reality that advances their interests. And so Ailes proved to me with his own life, the way he runs Fox News, the way he runs Fox News and applies the same techniques to to our politics. 

It’s fascinating, isn’t it, because even the mere act of creating that counternarrative. Then muddies the waters enough to. Even if people don’t believe in the counternarrative Friday. At least it becomes a game of he said she said at least it confuses people quite well. OK. Gabe Sherman says this, but then its other biographer says this. CNN says this. But then Fox News says that The New York Times says this. And it becomes so confusing for people that even if that I buy into the Fox News mindset, that the mere existence of Fox News and the mere existence of the information that Roger Ailes is putting out means that credible sources become less credible. 

Without a doubt. And you see that. You see that with a whole host of issues that, you know, let’s say climate change, where the international consensus among the leading climate scientists is that the climate is changing and the release of carbon into the atmosphere is playing a role. Now, you know, there’s some nuance in terms of how how this process works. We don’t have all the answers, but the basic fact is settled by science. And yet Fox News will continually push the notion that climate change is a hoax. We don’t really know climate changes all the time and we don’t really know what’s going on, so we shouldn’t do anything about it. And that, I think, is been one of the key reasons why there has not been a political will in this country to tackle it at as an issue, because Ailes has set up enough thrown up enough sand in people’s eyes that there is there is a bloc of voters that say, well, listen, we just don’t know the truth. So we should just, like, sit on it. And I think that is that that’s a great question you raise. You know, just by putting out a narrative, even if it’s dismissed by a vast majority of people, has the effect of damaging the credibility of other media. How do you essentially one other point is that Ailes is in many ways running a campaign against the media. You know, Fox News is kind of the anti journalism news outlet. It is in many ways kind of makes a mockery of what journalism is. And by its very nature, by its very existence, it de legitimizes the authority of legacy media outlets that apply the rigor and standards of journalism to to their to their coverage of serious issues. And Fox News, by its very nature, do you legitimize them? 

How do you feel about the media in general? I mean, about the state of American media? 

You know, there is there is often a criticism that journalists today feel to sit on the fence too much and say and do a he said she said kind of line a little bit too much and don’t do the hard work of digging into facts and trying to figure out what’s actually true and then presenting to people, to their audience what they think is is actually true. They do the easy thing of, well, this person says this and that person says that. So the impartial thing to do is just to split the baby in half and take a take a fence sitting approach to either of them. And you can be the one to decide. Is that too much of that in American media? Could we be more reasonable? Could we be more rational? 

I mean, that’s a very broad question. I mean, I think you can find examples of false equivalency and kind of equivocation in in certain corners of our of this business. But I think there is I think I think this in many ways in the post WMD, post Iraq media environment, I think journalists are willing to not not be, you know, kind of seduced by, you know, channeling one side or the other. I think that I think there is trues reporter speaking truth to power. So I’m optimistic about the state of my business. And, you know, I think if you look at the coverage of WikiLeaks, I think if you look at Edward Snowden’s revelations, which have rocked the intelligence state here in America, I mean, I think I think there is an aggressive, aggressive news culture that maybe wasn’t there in the run-up to the Iraq war. But I think that has been that was such a chastening experience for the American journalism establishment that I don’t think they have fallen into that trap, you know, writ large. Now, you could say there some of the coverage of of Wall Street before the financial crash crash was overly credulous. But on the whole, I think journalists are are doing a good rigorous work, investigative work that is bringing sunlight to corners of our of our culture that that that need that need to be rigorously debated out in the open. 

I’m glad we could end on a note of optimism. Last question. If Fox News is a cult of personality of one man, what happens when that woman dies? 

That is that is the the ultimate question. I think one thing is certain. It will not exist in its present form. It can’t because it’s a reflection of him, you know, whether there whether whether it exists at all. I mean, it is still a. Tremendously profitable business. There is an audience for right wing media as. As talk radio can attest. You know, there is millions of people who want right wing entertainment and talking points. But I don’t know if it can be the same cultural force because it’s a cultural horse. Because Ailes is at the head of it. And without him, there is not a person who will step into that seat and run it with the same degree of control and dominance that he has. 

The book is The Loudest Voice in the room. It’s a fascinating read. The author is Gabriel Sherman. Gabriel, thanks so much for being on point of inquiry. I enjoyed it. Thank you. 

Josh Zepps

Josh Zepps

An Australian media personality, political satirist, actor, and TV show host. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. He was a founding host for HuffPost Live.