NEW YORK — The chairman of Fox News Channel has adopted a wholly unfamiliar defense against critical claims raised in an unauthorized biography of the conservative kingmaker.
“Attacking me and Fox News is nothing new—it’s a cottage industry,” Roger Ailes told The Hollywood Reporter. “What’s new is that [the publisher] Random House refused to fact check the content with me or Fox News—that tells you everything you need to know about this book and its agenda.”
Ailes then posed a question to his interviewer. “So maybe you can tell me, as a journalist, what exactly is the deal with this ‘fact-checking?’
“The boys down in publicity seem to think this line of argument will help neutralize the book’s scandalous revelations without actually disputing their veracity. But I can’t claim to understand it. I’m no rocket scientist.”
Regardless, the accusation invited an emphatic rebuttal by Ailes’s biographer, Gabriel Sherman, and a storm of activity at Fox News as employees there began researching the concept of “fact-checking” on the behest of their boss.
Lillian Moore, a spokesperson for FactCheck.org, happily fielded some of their naïve questions on the subject.
“I defined the concept for them,” said Moore, “and gave them a rundown on the fundamentals of solid journalism, including the importance of tracing every single fact back to a primary source for verification.”
“The conversation was a real eye-opener,” explained the executive vice president of Fox’s breaking news division. “Not only did it seem like a waste of time, it goes against our whole ethos of ‘We Report, You Decide.’”
“But,” the vice president went on to remark, “I’m not one to contradict [Ailes]. If he wants us to start fact checking, we will. I mean, have you read how ‘volatile’ and ‘domineering’ he can be as a manager?”
For his part, Sherman acknowledged that fact checking “The Loudest Voice in the Room” was a time-intensive process. “A team of two fact-checkers spent more than 2,000 hours vetting the manuscript before publication. Roger Ailes declined every request to discuss the reporting with me.”
Fact-checkers at Politifact confessed mixed feelings about the Fox’s belated appreciation for checking facts. Said one anonymous fact-checker, “Fox News is the bread and butter of FactCheck.org. If they start confirming their reports, I’m worried I’d be out of a job. It’s just a fact.”