Jonathan Alter: MSM Tool in the War Against Roger Ailes and Fox News

As the Obama administration goes down, the Fox News Channel goes up. 

This equation is unacceptable, of course, to the Main Stream Media. And so one veteran MSM-er, Jonathan Alter--who now writes for Bloomberg View, the billionaire-funded game preserve of old liberal pundits--has stepped forward with a new book, The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies, which is designed to readjust the balance back in favor of Barack Obama. It’s a double-barreled volume, simultaneously boosting Obama--note the planted assumption that Obama is a centrist--and also smearing Obama’s critics.

We’re witnessing the eclipse of the Obama presidency, as “hope and change” turns into “scandal and coverup.” Everyone knows it, and yet reporters who have staked their credibility on Obama-as-messiah can’t be expected to admit it.

Meanwhile, Fox News continues its eleven-year streak as the #1 cable news channel. Indeed, in 2013, as Fox sets the national agenda on the investigations into Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, and Eric Holder, even its enemies have to concede that Fox is, in fact, “the most powerful name in news.”

So what to do about this troublesome Fox? How shall the MSM react to the continued success of the upstart news channel? The marketing of the Alter book tells us that MSM-ers think they can gain more traction by trashing Fox rather than by praising Obama. It’s the old truism: When you run out of positive things to say, go negative--at least maybe you’ll stir things up.

And what is there positive to say about Obama anymore? Not much, really. In his book, Alter, himself an NBC News analyst, does his best to re-inflate Obama and his political victories, describing the 2012 election as “the most consequential” in recent times, as a “hinge in history,” involving a “titanic ideological struggle.” In other words, Alter left no cliché behind in his effort to lionize his hero.

Yet, even The New York Times, in its June 2 review, derided the Alter book as “tiresomely familiar,” dismissing its rehash of the 2012 election as “reheated news” advancing a “well-worn narrative.”

Yikes. With reviews such as that, Alter and publisher Simon & Schuster were not going to sell too many books. Even liberal Koolaid drinkers are unlikely to want to read a pastiche of news clips from the recent Obama years.

So over the past few days, since the Times review, in an obvious attempt to pump up buzz and sales, Alter and his book marketers have decided to highlight the other angle of the book: buy the book because of the negative stuff on Fox News. And, in particular, on Roger Ailes. Interestingly, the Times review didn’t even mention Ailes or Fox; the man and his network feature only sparingly in the book.

Yet in the hands of clever spinners and packagers, those little anti-Ailes snippets can be made to seem like the whole book. And so we come to The Huffington Post, that empire of limousine-liberal politics.

On June 4, Alter sat down for an interview with HuffPostLive and made it sound as if his whole book was about Ailes and Fox. And, of course, HuffPost cooperated fully, headlining the piece, “Roger Ailes Thinks People Hate Him ‘Because I'm Fat,’ And 12 More Fun Facts From Jonathan Alter's The Center Holds.”

In the video, interviewer Marc Lamont Hill--believe it or not, he’s an academic somewhere--got right down to it on Ailes, telling Alter: “You make him sound a bit deranged, or at least paranoid.”

Replied Alter: “That’s fair, based on reporting that I did for this book. And by the way, other reports. It’s been public information that he has bullet-proof glass...”

We can stop right there, before we even get to these fact-challenged details. First of all, Breitbart News did some checking, and according to authoritative Fox and News Corporation sources, Ailes never talked to Alter for this book. Nor has he talked to him in many years. Nor are there are any inside Fox or News Corp. sources cited by name in the book. So Alter’s long-distance diagnosis of Ailes is, well, suspect. Indeed, as one Fox source told us:

If there’s any diagnosis to be made here, it’s Alter suffering from a bad case of sour grapes: A while back, Jon was fishing around for a Fox Contributor gig, and he didn’t get one--not because he’s a liberal, but because he’s boring. There have plenty of liberals on the payroll here at Fox, but they have to be interesting. Jon’s a snooze.

So there you have a further piece of the puzzle: Alter isn’t just a liberal, he’s a rejected, and now bitter, liberal.

Okay, now back to Alter as a journalist: Let’s look at the assertion that Ailes has tried to install bullet-proof glass in his office windows. How does Alter know that? Or “know” that? He seems to have gotten that item from, as he says on the video, “other reports” and “public information.” In other words, we have ample grounds to believe that Alter has just been Googling around in the large swamp of anti-Ailes propaganda.

The idea that Ailes’ office at Fox News has bullet-proof glass goes back at least to 2008, having been “reported” by a highly disgruntled ex-Fox News employee, and having repeated around the Internet ever since. In fact, it might be a good idea for Ailes to have bullet-proof glass in his office--plenty of CEOs and others have it, not to mention Presidents of the United States--but as Howard Kurtz reported in 2011, Alter’s claim about Ailes simply isn’t true.

That last bit information from Kurtz is, of course, also available on Google, but evidently Alter uses Google only for what he is looking for, as opposed to what he is not looking for. Indeed, for some journalistic hacks, there’s a cynical old joke about dubious scoops that applies here: “Too good to check!” That is, just go with it, anyway. And that seems to be the Alter modus operandi.

In fact, some might recall that Alter and his book first gained a little attention in May, when Alter alleged that Ailes had once ordered Fox producers to cut the microphone of Geraldo Rivera during a particularly contentious TV debate. Alter didn’t bother to detail the date-and-time specifics of this purported act of censorship, but Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell tracked it all down and headlined his report, “Roger Ailes Did Not Call Fox Control Room to Shut Off Geraldo’s Mic During Benghazi Shoutfest.” Geraldo himself, the supposed victim, weighed in to say, too, that it never happened. Moreover, he added, in his decade-long association with Fox, he has never been censored in any way.

So if Alter’s reporting is this lazy and inaccurate, why is Breitbart News even worrying about him? Normally, Breitbart News tries to focus on, well, news. So that would mean that we could skip over Alter completely, leaving him to try to sell his book to rich retirees with money and time to waste. Yet because of his aforementioned connection to Michael Bloomberg, we can see that Alter is, in fact, part of the larger movement of billionaire-funded “journalism,” a phenomenon that Breitbart News has chronicled extensively over the last year, taking particular note of one Gabriel Sherman.

That’s what makes Alter interesting, as well as worrisome. He is another pawn in the billionaire-funded game of liberal-left advocacy organizations that have sought to damage not only the right, but also to smear Roger Ailes and his family. It’s that whole vast web of partisan and ideological intrigue that needs to be exposed and, as need be, debunked and refuted.

So here we go on Alter. That June 4 piece for The Huffington Post lays out 13 specific allegations about Ailes. Interestingly, even Alter didn’t dare repeat his laughably wrong cut-Geraldo’s-mic accusation.

Breitbart News checked on each one of these new allegations with its sources at Fox and the News Corp.

So let’s look at each in turn. As we shall see, two are true, five are partly true, and six are totally false.

1. Ailes is so paranoid about wiretapping in the News Corp. that he “once worked out of a supply closet.”

“Laughable, did not happen,” declared a high-placed figure to Breitbart News. Alter’s item was “sourced,” if that’s the right word, to Rupert Murdoch himself, and Murdoch has dismissed it. So that’s a “false” for Alter. Oh, and by the way, in the wake of the revelations about the Justice Department snooping on Fox, if you were Ailes, wouldn’t you think that there was a decent enough chance that you, as well as your reporters, were being surveilled? Alter & Co. may trust the Obama administration, but the ranks of the trusters are dwindling.

2. He has a “terrorist monitor” at his desk. 

Ailes doesn’t have a “terrorist monitor” on his desk, he has a closed-circuit TV monitor. Ironically, he first acquired it because he is a designated fire marshal for his portion of the New York City office building that houses Fox and News Corp. So unless we want to say that “terrorism” and “TV” both start with “t,” then we can give Alter a “false” on this one, too.

3. “He tried to bombproof his office.”

As we have seen, this canard traces back to an angry ex-Fox employee in 2008 and has been refuted. Yet that didn’t stop Alter from “reporting” it, and, of course, nobody at The Huffington Post bothered to check it; they just put the video out there, hoping for some clicks. So another “false” for Alter. That’s three strikes for Alter--all misses by a mile. Yet since Alter, enjoying life on Mike Bloomberg’s payroll, gets to stay in the game, Breitbart will have stay in, too.

4. He demanded that building security throw out a “Muslim-looking” janitor.

Once again, security sources at Fox are definitive: “Simply not true. Didn’t happen.” So that’s “false” #4.

5. Rupert Murdoch finds him “cuckoo,” but “amusing.” 

There’s a germ of truth in this one, Breitbart News can confirm. Murdoch and Ailes sometimes indulge in guy-talk, and that inevitably includes some good-natured ribbing. However, according to a longtime hand at News Corp., Murdoch doesn’t use a word like “cuckoo.” And the bottom line, of course, is that Murdoch and Ailes have worked together closely since the mid-90s; under Murdoch’s watchful eye, Ailes has built Fox News up from nothing. It’s a property that was estimated, in 2012, to be worth approximately in excess of $12.4 billion as a stand-alone asset. For business people, that’s the basis of a beautiful relationship. So give Alter a “partly true” on this one.

6. Ailes has 24-hour security guards at his house.

According to our reporting, Ailes has several residences; some have security guards some of the time, others do not. Once again, Ailes is hardly unique in that regard. We’ll give Alter a “partly true” on this one.

7. Ailes enters the office through the side door.

Wow! What a scoop! The only thing that makes this Alter item even halfway interesting is the claim that Ailes is the only one at News Corp. who comes and goes this way. But, unfortunately for Alter, it’s not true. Says a News Corp. building source: “Mr. Ailes uses it, yes, and so does Mr. Murdoch, Mr. O’Reilly, and many other VIPs. It’s standard practice in a lot of buildings in New York.” So a “partly true” on this one.

8. Ailes has two bodyguards.

No, he has one bodyguard. And so when that one is off duty, Ailes has none. So while Alter’s assertion is, on its face, incorrect, we’ll still give Alter a “partly true” for breaking the shocking news that a rich, controversial figure has a bodyguard. Maybe next Alter will uncover the truth about Michael Bloomberg’s security arrangements. And after that, Jay-Z.

9. Ailes “terrifies” current and former staffers

Fox has had 2000 or so employees for the past 17 years. Some weren’t happy, such as Joe “The Mole” Muto--who also, of course, has AN anti-Ailes book to sell. Muto, we might note, wrote of himself in 2012, “I am a weasel, a traitor, a sell-out and every bad word you can throw at me.” Obviously he’s not a happy man, and since he got caught leaking against Fox, perhaps he is terrified and afraid. Other Fox employees, too, past and present, do seem to fear Ailes. He is, Breitbart News can report, a genuine bad-ass. So, we’ll give Alter a “partly true.” Meanwhile, if Alter is worried about surveillance, he might start worrying about the Obama administration.

10. Ailes thinks people hate him because of his weight.

Breitbart can confirm that Ailes is, indeed, overweight. However, according to Fox sources, Ailes sees opposition to him as mostly based on ideology, as opposed to physiognomy. To be sure, some have told him they don’t like him for various reasons, including his choice of neckties, but weight has never come up. Sorry, Jon, this is another “false” for you.

11. Ailes had Chris Christie and Rush Limbaugh over for a “secret lunch.”

Ailes has long been friends with both Christie and Limbaugh; they might even enjoy a meal together. And it was reported, back in 2011, that Ailes wanted Christie to run for President. So once again, give Alter credit for some really astute Googling. What can’t be said is that Alter added any additional reporting of his own. Still, let’s give Alter a “true” for this one. So now, of course, in the interests of openness and candor, we will expect Alter to let the world know about all of his lunches. Somebody, surely, will care.

12. Ailes was tough on Obama in their one meeting.

That meeting--and it was contentious--was in Spring 2008, and was widely reported that same year. Indeed, Michael Wolff, a shrewd observer of Fox and News Corp., provided even more detail on the Ailes-Obama meeting in a book that he published later that same year. Once gain, the year was 2008. Now Alter is trying to peddle it as fresh stuff in 2013. So okay, Alter got that one right; give him full “true” credit for some very stale news. As an aside, we can say, if Ailes stood up to Obama--bravo!

13. Ailes threatened to quit when Murdoch told him to ease up on Obama.

Sources tell Fox that Murdoch has never--not once in nearly 17 years of Fox being on the air--tried to put any kind of editorial pressure on Ailes or on Fox. So that assertion is wrong. Period. Meanwhile, just last fall, Ailes signed a new four-year contract with Fox and News Corp. So chock up another “false” for Alter.

Let’s tally up here: Of the 13 assertions made against Ailes and summed up in this Huffington Post article, two are true, five are partly true, and six are false. And those two true items were reported two and five years ago, respectively. Meanwhile, the assertions that are new are mostly or entirely false.

So that’s the Alter book on Ailes: Part true, part original. The problem is that what’s true is not original, and what’s original is not true.

Those who blindly love Obama will, of course, blindly love Alter’s book. Those unseeing idolaters probably won’t even care that the Obama suck-up parts are, as the Times reviewer observed, “tiresomely familiar.”

But for everyone else, the Alter book is interesting for only one thing: It shows the utter determination, even desperation, of the billionaire-liberal media patrons as they seek to smite their enemies, both in politics and in journalism. And of course, it shows that junior partners such as Arianna Huffington--a mere centimillionaire, although still very much in the elite club--are eager to use their sloppy media portals to do the lefty dirty-work of those same scheming billionaires.

Like Gabriel Sherman, Jonathan Alter has found his small but lucrative place in this liberal fatcat flotilla.


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