Has “stalking” become the new gold standard of investigative reporting for left-wing journalists?
In the rough-and-tumble world of politics and media, family should be off limits—unless, of course, they have deliberately inserted themselves into the public discourse. This is an honor-code rule that most true journalists follow. But of course, not all writers feel bound by any journalistic code of honor—especially desperate ones.
A case in point is Gabriel Sherman, who has been pursuing, with Inspector Javert-like intensity, his tax-exempt effort to concoct a hatchet-job biography of Roger Ailes and Fox News. Along the way, Sherman reportedly has been observed violating the privacy not only of Ailes himself but also of the Ailes family.
Last year, Sherman was publicly accused of being a “harasser” and engaging in “stalker media.” Just last week, in another rebuke to Sherman, Beth Ailes, Roger’s wife, went public with her own concerns about Sherman’s nasty intrusiveness, tweeting, “He's been asked before to leave me alone but he won't stop.”
So, who is Gabriel Sherman, and why is he bothering Ailes’ wife?
Sherman, a staff writer for New York Magazine, inked a book deal with Random House in February 2011. Not long thereafter, he went to work at the George Soros-funded New America Foundation (NAF). In the announcement of his fellowship at the organization, NAF stated, "As a Schwartz Fellow, Sherman will complete a book on the history of Roger Ailes and Fox News that Random House plans to publish in 2013."
That new gig raised the question: why was a foundation—contributions to which are tax deductible—helping a magazine writer pull together a book on Ailes and Fox News? What sort of lofty, public purpose does that serve?
The answer, of course, is that such a hire serves no lofty purpose whatsoever—and that’s why the leftist operatives who run and fund the New America Foundation decided they wanted to hire Sherman.
Ailes quickly—and, in retrospect, wisely—concluded that Sherman was bent on smearing him and Fox News; that conclusion immediately shut down Sherman’s access to anyone in Ailes’ circle.
Consequently, Sherman has since had to scramble; the original plan was for the book to be completed and published by now. The “pub date” is now officially May 21, although insiders say that it will be delayed even further.
Meanwhile, in his eagerness to be a “Soros puppet,” Sherman appears to be digging for dirt among embittered ex-employees. Sherman has been seen many times snooping around Putnam County, NY, where the Ailes family maintains a weekend home.
By allegedly targeting a family home, Sherman has crossed the line—the honor-code line, that is.
Last June, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros, co-host of The Five and radio talk-show host tweeted out pointed references to Sherman:
The “harasser” @gabrielsherman of NY Mag stoops 2 new low going after Roger Ailes’ wife. What do u expect from a Soros puppet?
Fox News CEO is one thing, his family - private citizens- is another But not to the harasser @gabrielsherman, aka stalker media.
We might particularly note some of those word-choices: “harasser,” “stalker,” and, of course, “Soros puppet.”
Since this exposure, things have only grown worse for Sherman—and, sadly, for the Ailes family’s privacy.
In a March 4 story on Ailes and the media battle over his legacy, Politico—not exactly an Ailes sympathizer—characterized Sherman’s book-project as an “obsession.” Some might wish to point that while the word “obsession” might be good for selling perfume, it's never a good word to use about a journalist.
The irony is that even as Sherman’s obsessiveness increases, his effectiveness decreases—because what’s Sherman to do? How to get his book done if he doesn’t have access to Ailes or anyone around him?
Now we can see why Sherman has spent a lot of time in and around Putnam County, NY, 60 miles north of Manhattan. As previously noted, the Ailes family has a weekend home there. In addition, it’s Beth Ailes, not Roger, who owns and publishes The Putnam County News and Recorder, a small community newspaper.
What can Sherman find out about Roger Ailes up there? Probably not much. It would, though, appear that he’s targeting his wife.
In fact, Beth Ailes and Sherman already had a bit of a confrontation. Sherman paid for a subscription to the News and Recorder, and Mrs. Ailes promptly canceled the subscription and refunded the money.
On March 13, Beth Ailes sent out the aforementioned tweet alluding to Sherman’s unnerving preoccupation with her: “He's been asked before to leave me alone but he won't stop.” One might think, of course, that Sherman, having been chastised so publicly, would be inclined to back off. The subject of his book, after all, is Roger, not Beth. Even Sherman benefactor George Soros isn’t interested in a book about Beth.
Yet Sherman, being Sherman, tweeted right back at Beth: “Since you won’t let me subscribe to the paper this helps stay up to date on Putnam County.”
While Sherman has been skulking around Putnam County, another journalist—or, should we say, a real journalist—Zev Chafets, was enjoying access to Ailes for his book about Ailes and Fox News.
Indeed, those who are interested in the Man Who Created the Most Powerful Name in News, warts and all, will find Chafets’ new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, to be a windfall of juicy information. Chafets had access not only to Ailes but also to Fox News staff; that access shows. The Chafets book was not authorized and, in fact, some of Ailes’ plain-spoken comments from an excerpt of the book in Vanity Fair have already caused some heartburn in the Fair & Balanced world.
For example, MSM headlines glossed from the Vanity Fair excerpt quoted Ailes as calling Barack Obama “lazy.” Only those who had bothered to read the actual excerpt could see that Ailes was actually quoting Obama himself. The President had said in a December 23, 2011 interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters that “deep down... there’s a laziness in me.” Ailes was not describing the President as “lazy”; he was merely referring to a comment made by Obama describing himself. Ailes reports, you decide.
Meanwhile, other quotes from the book stand out notably as Ailes uncut and uncensored. The Fox boss referred to Vice President Joe Biden as likable enough but “dumb as an ashtray.” He also described Newt Gingrich as “a prick.” Clearly, the P.R. people at Fox would have cut those quotes if they could have done so—although, for his part, Ailes seems unapologetic.
That same March 4 Politico story on the Ailes legacy also featured revealing quotes from New York City-based journalist Michael Wolff, a longtime chronicler of Fox and its corporate parent, News Corporation. Wolff, in fact, had written a tough-minded biography of Rupert Murdoch five years ago, and as a biographer, he understands the value of knowing the biographee.
On March 6, the day after the Chafets excerpt was published, Wolff tweeted, “This is why you can't write a book about Roger Ailes without Ailes, because the real story is about his unique expressiveness.”
As Wolff told Politico, “The truth is, without Roger, Gabe Sherman really doesn’t have a book about Roger—all he has is a book about Gabe Sherman’s Roger Ailes. And what the hell is that?”