According to sources, Murdoch has tried -- and failed -- to rein in Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who, insiders say, is pushing Fox to defend Trump’s most outlandish comments. This week, Ailes told his senior executives during a meeting that Murdoch recently called him and asked if Fox could “back off the Trump coverage,” a source told me. Ailes is said to have boasted to his executives that he told Murdoch he was covering Trump “the way he wanted to.” The implication was that he wasn’t going to budge.Sherman says that Ailes has ordered Eric Bolling of The Five to express support for Trump on the air, and that Ailes injects his own pro-Trump views into Fox and Friends. Murdoch wants Trump downplayed on the air, but Ailes seems to be flaunting his insubordination.
But wait -- wasn't everything supposed to be different for Ailes now, given the fact that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, has a new boss? That's what Sherman told us a month ago, at what was supposed to be a moment of public humiliation for Ailes:
Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch [Rupert Murdoch's sons]. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.And that was supposed to be a huge problem for Ailes because he'd feuded with both Lachlan and James, and because James is reportedly much more liberal than his father.
Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."
This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
The takeover happened on July 1 -- but six days earlier, Ailes signed a new contract that will keep him as head of Fox News into 2018. A press release said he'd "jointly report" to Rupert, James, and Lachlan Murdoch -- and, as a CNNMoney story noted, "in practice, that may mean Rupert will continue to call the shots when it comes to Fox."
Which turns out not to be true, because, in practice, Roger Ailes clearly continues to call the shots when it comes to Fox. The sons have no real power over Ailes, and Daddy Rupert has power but doesn't have the guts to exercise it.
In a way, the Murdochs are behaving toward Ailes the way the party elders and other presidential candidates in the GOP have been behaving toward Trump: they're doing a lot of hand-wringing, but they're afraid of a direct confrontation. They've been reduced to quivering masses of jelly because they're afraid their operations will come crashing down around them if they push too hard. Hey, Republican Party and Rupert Murdoch, I thought you were supposed to be tough guys.