Fox News CEO Roger Ailes recently renewed his contract, and he gave an interview to explain why. As one might expect, given the we-only-look-biased-because-the-other-guys-are-so-biased philosophy at Fox, he’s motivated by what he sees as the outrageously partisan media everywhere else (MediaBistro, 11/16/12):
Ailes was also sparked by what he experienced at a Washington journalists’ dinner. “When I saw the president say, ‘I know you all voted for me,’ and a thousand people stood up and cheered and applauded and then when the applause died down, he said, ‘Oh probably except you guys at the Fox table.’ I thought, ‘Am I the only guy in this room doing his job?’ They set up Freedom of the Press. The press is supposed to watch the powerful. And not throw in with them. And when I watched a thousand people stand and cheer and applaud I thought, ‘Uh oh. Somebody better do this job.'”
Ailes is talking about the White House correspondents dinner. As most people with even a passing awareness of Beltway politics know, many of the people at this event are not reporters. Indeed, outlets spend what seems like a lot of time and effort getting celebrities to sit at their tables. So whatever the audience reaction, it would not tell you much about what journalists think.
But unfortunately for Ailes, these events are recorded by television cameras, so you can see what the fuss is all about:
So there weren’t a thousand people standing up and cheering. There was laughter at a mildly funny joke, followed by more laughter at the expense of Ailes’ right-wing news outlet.
That’s what happens at these events, by the way–politicians try to tell jokes. Some are better than others. At a different schmoozefest in 2005, George W. Bush famously made jokes about not being able to find Iraq’s WMDs. The press laughed then, and then defended their laughter. Was Ailes offended by this abdication of journalistic duty?
And if you think there’s something funny about Ailes touting the his job of “watching the powerful,” Gawker‘s John Cook has assembled a collection of documents showing “how Roger Ailes watched the powerful during the Bush Administration”–including warm and fuzzy notes he wrote to the likes of Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft