Gabriel Sherman of the New York Magazine has written a short exposé on Fox News’ much-rumoured “Black Room”, a non-too subtle nickname for a dirty tricks department which operated under the control of discredited former CEO, Roger Ailes, for many years. Some of the accusations in relation to the depth and breadth of the unit’s activities are quite astonishing when one remembers that they were alledgedly taking place at the behest of major television news network in the United States. The nearest Irish equivalent would be, I suppose, the acknowledged domination of the News and Current Affairs Department of RTÉ by entryist anti-republicans during the 1970s and ’80s. Though given Fox News’ role as a cheerleader in the US’ misadventures in Iraq and the supposed War on Terror, the bloodshed on its hands is rather thicker than that of the former Workers Party renegades who contributed to the needless prolonging of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland.
“…Ailes was also able to use portions of the Fox budget to hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives who reported only to him, according to a senior Fox source. Last week, according to the source, Fox News dismissed five consultants whom Ailes had hired to do work that was more about advancing his own agenda than Fox’s. One of the consultants, Bert Solivan, ran negative PR campaigns against Ailes’s personal and political enemies out of Fox News headquarters…
According to one highly placed source, Solivan worked out of what Fox insiders called “the Black Room,” an operation Ailes established around 2011 to conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted, both inside and outside the company. The “Black Room” was located on the 14th floor of the News Corp building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, a quiet part of the office that housed Fox News Latino and some marketing and promotions employees.
Targets of the campaigns included journalists John Cook and Hamilton Nolan, who have aggressively covered Ailes for Gawker. According to one source, private detectives followed Cook around his Brooklyn neighborhood, and Fox operatives prepared a report on him with information they intended to leak to blogs.
Fox operatives also targeted Joe Lindsley, the former editor of Ailes’s local newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder. In April 2011, Lindsley had a falling-out with Ailes and quit the paper, along with two co-workers. Ailes assigned private investigators to follow Lindsley around Putnam County. He also asked Fox host Andrea Tantaros, whom Ailes had once seated next to Lindsley at a dinner party at Ailes’s home, to contact Lindsley and report back on his whereabouts, two sources said. Meanwhile, Solivan posted negative comments about Lindsley on blogs…
I was also the target of an operation, a source told me: In 2012, while I was researching a biography of Ailes, Fox operatives set up webpages to attack my reputation, and Fox funds paid for Google search ads against my name that linked to the sites. One source also said private investigators employed by Fox contributor Bo Dietl were instructed to follow me and my wife.”
It seems that Roger Ailes was acting as the J. Edgar Hoover of American broadcasting for decades and, as with the latter authoritarian figure, very few indeed were willing to challenge him or his practices. However nefarious.