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Liberal Michael Wolff: New Ailes Book 'Quite Absurd'

By David A. Patten   |   Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 11:24 PM

A leading media critic is blasting a new book on Fox News chief Roger Ailes as "absurd," and says its author not only is “telling the story wrong. He’s telling the wrong story.”

The book in question, “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country,” was written by Gabriel Sherman, a contributing editor for New York Magazine.

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Sherman's book acknowledges that the Fox News president is brilliant and competitive, but knocks him as temperamental and "paranoid."

But Michael Wolff, a respected liberal press critic, says Sherman's book doesn't pass the smell test: He never even interviewed Ailes.

Writing in Slate.com, Wolff finds the absence of an Ailes interview curious, describing the legendary Fox leader as open and “always talkative.”

Wolff is no friend of Ailes, Fox News or its parent company, News Corp. Wolff wrote his own controversial book attacking Fox's founder Rupert Murdoch, titled “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch.

Wolff admits he is “politically far apart” from Ailes, but says he he has consistently found him to be “extraordinarily open” and “marvelously expressive about what he does.”

Wolff suggests Sherman was offended by how Ailes’ launched Fox and turned it into a hugely-profitable ratings powerhouse. He posits Sherman “is holding his nose the whole time he writes about him.”

He calls the book “a long slog . . . a dour and grudging account.”

On Friday, Sherman defended his controversial portrayal of Ailes on rival CBS News’ “This Morning” show.

Sherman insisted fact-checkers carefully reviewed his work prior to publication and said that repeated requests to interview Ailes were declined.

But Sherman never bothered to contact Fox's press department to share his myriad number of allegations against Ailes for "fact checking" and Ailes rebuttal, a standard journalistic practice.

Sherman’s account of Ailes’ career relies, by Wolff’s count, on over 400 unnamed sources. In defending his book, Sherman said he conducted over 600 interviews.

Many of Sherman’s key sources have known axes to grind against Ailes, his media career spanning over four decades, Wolff writes that “almost all of [Sherman's] sources are people out to settle scores with Ailes.”

The result, according to Wolff, “is a cacophony of resentment and inevitable distortion.”

Wolff is especially critical of what he sees as Sherman’s shaky premise: Ailes is a media auteur and is using Fox News to sow division and manipulate the nation’s agenda.

“Fox’s prime-time audience averages 1.1 million,” Wolff responds dismissively. “Network news audiences in the great old days reached 40 million. Sherman’s thesis that Ailes ‘divided a country’ is quite absurd.”

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