The loudest voice in the room belongs to Roger Ailes, who is described in this book’s subtitle as the brilliant, bombastic man who built Fox News and divided a country. Care to guess whether this book is positive or negative? I just about skipped reading the book, not only because of its negative bent, but also because the author Gabriel Sherman was so unqualified – i.e., a young, liberal, northeast journalist who was writing his first book.
Despite my misgivings, I gave the book a try and wasn’t disappointed. It is well-researched and well-written. And although it is clearly written from the mindset of a liberal person who dislikes conservatives, I felt like the facts were fully developed, and I have no problem listening to liberal presentations as long as the underlying facts are fairly presented.
Ailes is a really interesting guy with conservative Midwestern sensibilities – my kind of guy. Before starting Fox News, he was a small-town TV producer who stumbled across Mike Douglas and took him to the top. Then he stumbled across Richard Nixon and took him to the top. Nixon and Ailes are kindred spirits in many ways, but especially in their ability to prevail in politics despite neurotic, mean-spirited personalities. They are quintessential middle-Americans who resent the elite Ivy Leaguers and love to play the role of the underdog.
After helping George H.W. Bush to the top, Ailes left politics and returned to TV, and his crowning achievement has been to create, with the backing of Rupert Murdock, Fox News. Because I have only recently been following Fox News very closely, I much enjoyed reading about the early days, starting in 1996. There is a good discussion of the various anchors coming and going, including Alan Colmes, and the big issues of those times – e.g., the Lewinsky scandal, Bush’s election in Florida, and 9/11.
This 395-page book is time well-spent for this politics and media junkie.