The Drudge Report nailed the gist of Russ Buettner's Thursday front-page story on the friendship between Fox News President Roger Ailes and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani: "Having failed to thwart Murdoch purchase of WALL STREET JOURNAL, the NEW YORK TIMES intensifies battle."
"Mr. Ailes served as the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani's first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes's wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes's company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.
"This year, they were tablemates at the White House correspondents dinner, which Mr. Giuliani attended as a guest of Fox's parent company, News Corporation.
"Now these allies and friends find themselves on largely uncharted political turf. Mr. Giuliani, 63, is a leading Republican candidate for president. Mr. Ailes, 67, as head of Fox News, runs the pre-eminent media outlet for likely voters in a Republican primary.
"Whether their friendship would ever affect coverage - Fox insists it has not and will not - it is nonetheless the sort of relationship that other campaigns have noted and are watching, though none wanted to speak publicly for fear of offending the station.
"So far this year, one political journal found, Mr. Giuliani has logged more time on Fox interview programs than any other candidate. Most of the time has been spent in interviews with Sean Hannity, an acknowledged admirer of the former mayor, according to the data compiled by the journal, known as The Hotline."
Since Giuliani has been leading the Republican field in almost all the polls taken so far, it's hardly a surprise that he would also lead in coverage at Fox News. And it's not exactly out of character for Sean Hannity, who is after all paid to have opinions, to favor a particular Republican candidate.
"Fox executives say the items on Mr. Giuliani have been driven by his news value, by his status as a front-runner, not by his relationship with Mr. Ailes.
"'I can't remember his ever saying anything, one way or the other, about our coverage of the Giuliani campaign,' Brit Hume, the anchor who coordinates much of Fox's political coverage, said of Mr. Ailes. 'And I am under no injunctions, restrictions, encouragements or directions of any kind as to how that campaign should be covered.'
"Yet the relationship between Mr. Ailes and Mr. Giuliani is the sort that led Mr. Ailes to grouse about CNN during the Clinton administration. Rick Kaplan, the president of CNN at the time, and President Clinton were established friends. Mr. Ailes, asserting the cable channel's coverage of the president was altogether too warm, called it the 'Clinton News Network.'"
Is it really the same? Times readers wouldn't know, because the paper never did an expose of the friendship between Rick Kaplan (who also served as executive producer for ABC's World News Tonight during the Clinton years) and President Clinton, even though they were close friends. Kaplan was an overnight guest in the Clinton White House. A Nexis search indicates that the Times has mentioned the Clinton-Kaplan friendship precisely twice before today, deep inside unrelated stories.
The Media Research Center has documented Kaplan's close relationship with Bill Clinton, and his meddling in the news content of his networks to help the president. Here are the highlights, summarized by the MRC's Brent Baker, of a January 1998 Vanity Fair profile of Kaplan, then president of CNN.
- Kaplan once hired Hillary Clinton.
- How he not only advised Clinton about how to counter Gennifer Flowers, a pretty well known event, but had earlier counseled Clinton on how to recover from his too-long 1988 convention speech.
- How he had been a political operative for a liberal presidential candidate before jumping to journalism.
- How he made calls to console Hillary Clinton after Vince Foster's death and to Web Hubbell after he resigned.
- How he killed a Whitewater piece from World News Tonight, discouraged reporters and producers from pursuing the topic and only ran an in-depth look one night in 1994 because Nightline was about to grab it.
- How he slurred conservative media critics who see liberal bias, specifically Reed Irvine and MRC Chairman Brent Bozell, as "liars."
"Mr. Ailes declined to be interviewed for this article, as did Mr. Giuliani, whose campaign would not answer specific questions about the relationship.
"But aides to both men acknowledge they have been friends for more than 20 years. After meeting at dinner parties in the 1980s, where they discovered a shared respect forRonald Reagan,they developed into the kind of friends who lend one another help, trade accolades and attend each other's weddings."
"In 2002, Mr. Ailes was criticized for having offered advice to President Bush months before in the form of a note that suggested how to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Critics suggested that Mr. Ailes, as a news executive, had crossed a line. Mr. Ailes said he was only expressing his outrage over the attacks on his country....Few, if any, presidents have taken office with a close friend at the helm of a network news division, said Thomas E. Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard University, and author of 'Out of Order,' a book about the relationship between the news media and politics. But the value of television appearances to politicians, he said, has never been in doubt."
The Times doesn't bother noting Rick Kaplan was Executive Producer of Prime Time Live during Bill Clinton's successful 1992 campaign for president.
Buettner then talked about Ailes' conflict with Time Warner cable in 1996, when the cable giant refused to carry the Fox News in New York City, and how Giuliani tried (and failed) to convince Time Warner to add the then-fledgling cable channel.
"Mr. Ailes has at various times been described as tightly controlling coverage, even suggesting particular jokes for his anchors to deliver. But a spokeswoman said his influence had grown more diffuse since he took over several other Fox divisions.
"Mr. Hume, the managing editor of Fox's Washington coverage who is the anchor of a daily political program, said Mr. Ailes was involved in twice-a-day meetings to discuss stories, but had never done anything to favor any candidate.
"Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Giuliani has appeared for 115 minutes in interviews on Fox. More than half of those minutes, 78, were spent with Mr. Hannity, co-host of the 'Hannity & Colmes' talk show. Mr. Hannity, a conservative who has spoken of his admiration for Mr. Giuliani, makes his own decisions about bookings, a spokeswoman said.
"Mr. Giuliani's on-air time was 25 percent greater than that of his Republican competitor Mitt Romney, and nearly double that of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Fred Thompson, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy, came in second to Mr. Giuliani with 101 minutes of Fox interviews."