Roger Ailes seems to have caught a case of amnesia or a serious projection complex, “kvetching” to Eliza Gray:
“The president likes to divide people into groups,” he huffs into the phone. “He’s too busy getting the middle class to hate rich people, blacks to hate whites. He is busy trying to get everybody to hate each other.” With that off his chest, Ailes gets back on message. “We need to get along.”
That sounds a lot like a mob boss bemoaning a crime wave.
Roger Ailes spent his entire career in politics dividing people along those exact lines to win elections.
While working for Richard Nixon in 1968 and producing the “Man in the Arena” events, Ailes openly played with race. In front of Selling of the President author Joe McGuiness, Ailes mused about dog whistling to racist white voters:
“You know what I’d like?” Ailes told the reporter. “As long as we’ve got this extra spot open. A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn’t that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, ‘Alwright mac, what about these n**gers.’”
Twenty years later, while working for George H.W. Bush, Ailes once again was at the center of an effort to inject race-based appeals into an election, remarking to a reporter: “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it.” Horton was a convicted murder who committed an armed robbery and rape while on a weekend leave as part of a furlough program in Massachusetts. Bush cited Horton in speeches around the country, but he was most remembered as part of an "independent expenditure" campaign targeting Michael Dukakis.
While the Fox News chief subsequently denied he had anything to do with the infamous ad, his deposition before the Federal Elections Commission once again shows the divisive nature of his politics:
Q: Did the Bush committee have any policy about not using Mr. Horton's photograph?
A: I have no knowledge of that. I personally rejected the use of Mr. Horton in the advertisement.
Q: How is that?
A: A young researcher brought me a picture of him sometime and I tore it up and threw it in the wastebasket and said we’re not going to do that.
Q And why is that?
A: I knew the issue would backlash because of the liberal media.
Q: And what was that about?
A: When Republicans see Willie Horton they see a criminal, and when Democrats see Willie Horton they see a black.
That same year Ailes produced the controversial Revolving Door ad, widely criticized for its racial overtones, which attacked Dukakis for the same weekend furlough program highlighted in the Willie Horton ad.
Working on Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign against David Dinkins, Ailes attempted to stir up racial resentment between New York’s African American and Jewish populations. Ira Silverman, Vice President of the American Jewish Committee criticized one of Ailes’ ads, telling Howard Kurtz that while it was “legitimate campaign tactic” it “preys upon the fears of the Jewish community.”
And Ailes’ tenure at Fox has brought more of the same. In 2008, Bill O’Reilly approvingly cited his boss’s previous work, claiming the controversy surround Barack Obama’s former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Write was Willie Horton “time a thousand.”
That was the beginning of an almost endless list of divisive racial controversies stoked by Fox – Shirley Sherrod, the New Black Panther Party, and Glenn Beck’s statement that Obama was a racist. Each of these was designed specifically to scare white voters away from the President.
So how does this now square with Ailes’s “We need to get along” reset? It makes sense only if you take heed of what he said while under oath in his FEC deposition, “I never say anything to the press I’m actually going to do.”