ó When author Zev Chafets started working on
"Roger Ailes: Off Camera," he had a frank
conversation with the mega-successful creator and CEO of
said to him, ĎLook, Iím relatively not stupid, but I
have no doubt youíre much smarter than I am. So I want
to play this with you with the cards face up. Iím
going to be straight with you. Iím going to establish
the ground rules going in and Iím not going to
surprise you. And I hope that youíre not going to
surprise me,í" says Chafets, author of the
controversial 1990 book "Devilís Night and Other
True Tales of Detroit," during a recent interview.
thatís the way we played it. It was clear to him that
he did not have editorial control over the book. It was
clear to him that I was going to write what I saw."
new book, which hit stores last week, has been getting
attention, largely thanks to the love-it-or-hate-it
nature of Fox News and the gossipy morsels posted in
early March on the Vanity Fair website. A flurry of
online items noted that Ailes called President Barack
Obama "lazy," Vice President Joe Biden
"dumb as an ashtray" and former Speaker of the
House Newt Gingrich "a sore loser," among
Chafets, who had Ailesí cooperation and was granted
access to his family, friends and Fox News colleagues,
puts his cards face up for readers, too. He states in
the introduction that this book isnít a formal
biography. Rather, he writes, "It is a record of
almost a year spent watching Roger Ailes in
a subject who, depending on your perspective, has either
brought fairness and balance to cable news or built a
veritable mouthpiece for the GOP, wasnít daunting to
Chafets, whoís no stranger to controversy.
and raised in Pontiac, Mich., Chafets moved to Israel
more than four decades ago and worked for the Israeli
government. He became an author and journalist and has
written many books, fiction and nonfiction, including
2010ís "Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One." Heís
a former New York Daily News columnist and a contributor
to the New York Times Magazine who divides his time
between New York and Tel Aviv.
in his hometown, Chafets is best known for "Devilís
Night," which drew the ire of city leaders and
local residents for its description of the Motor City as
Americaís first Third World city.
the uproar the book stirred here, the University of
Michigan graduate says critics of "Devilís
Night," including then-Mayor Coleman Young, didnít
read its contents. He recounts a phone call to Young in
the hospital shortly before the Detroit legendís
death. They had a friendly conversation, during which
the outspoken politician told him, "Zev, I never
even read that (profanity)."
of the things I observed 25 years ago are, I think,
still observable," says Chafets, who says Detroit
is a great city that he regards with enormous affection.
"The trends were very clear back then. It wasnít
surprising that the city has gotten smaller."
his new book, Chafets says the most surprising thing he
discovered about Ailes was the gap between how he is
perceived and what heís really like. The combative
media executive can be a forgiving boss and he has built
friendships across political and philosophical lines.
befriended MSNBCís Rachel Maddow at a White House
Christmas party and contributed a blurb to her book on
American military power. Chafets describes a visit to
Palm Beach where Ailes attended a party thrown by his
pal Ethel Kennedy one day and took his son to Limbaughís
studio the next.
said in the book that Roger says he thinks that heís
hated, but heís not. Heís admired in the TV news
business. I think thatís largely true," Chafets
covers how Ailes went from working in production for the
daytime gabfest "The Mike Douglas Show" to
becoming a political consultant for Richard Nixon and
other GOP candidates who eventually reached the White
journalistic background is manipulating
journalists," Chafets says. "All through his
political career, starting with Nixon, he saw
journalists in the raw. He figured out what makes
journalists jump. He figured out what makes journalists
flinch. He figured out what makes journalists hungry. He
figured out what makes journalists purr like a cat. Heís
an expert. He also figured out whatís hypocritical in
American journalism and where the real interests lie. He
developed a very strong cynicism about the pretensions
of American journalism."
short, Edward R. Murrow may be on permanent spin cycle
in his grave at the ratings victories that Ailes has
enjoyed. But Fox News continues to be divisively
fascinating. Whoíll be most interested in reading what
makes Ailes tick: friends or foes?
would say it would be my Aunt Betty, because itís
dedicated to her," Chafets jokes. "She hates
Fox News, by the way. She falls into the foes