Bob Woodward gets his hot little hands on a 2011 audio recording of a Fox News analyst personally delivering an off the record message to David Petraeus in Kabul from Roger Ailes: run for president and Rupert will “bankroll” you. Petraeus turned it down. Roger‘s Midas reputation remains intact.
Although Ailes shrugs it off, the revealing recording tells a different story.
Bob Woodward Washington Post: McFarland also said that Ailes — who had a decades-long career as a Republican political consultant, advising Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would “bankroll” the campaign.
“Rupert’s after me as well,” Petraeus told McFarland.
McFarland said she had spoken “directly” to the Fox News chairman and the “advice to you from Roger Ailes is. . . . He says that if you’re offered [JCS] chairman, take it. If you’re offered anything else, don’t take it; resign in six months and run for president.”
When McFarland first said she had a message directly from Ailes, Petraeus said, “With no one else in the room, I hope?”
Later she said, “I’m only reporting this back to Roger. And that’s our deal.”
Petraeus said it was okay to relay his response to Ailes, adding “that has to be off the record.”
“His deal with me was that I was only supposed to talk to you,” McFarland said. “And he is a little paranoid, so believe me, he doesn’t have anybody in that room.”
While rejecting Ailes’ advice, Petraeus said, “I love Roger. . . . He’s a brilliant guy.”
Petraeus said he “would love to see” Ailes on his next trip to New York, where Ailes has his office.
“Tell him if I ever ran,” Petraeus said, and then laughed, “but I won’t . . . but if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer. . . . He said he would quit Fox . . . and bankroll it.”
“Bankroll it?” asked McFarland, who served as a senior aide to Henry Kissinger and later as a Pentagon spokeswoman in the Reagan administration.
“Or maybe I’m confusing that with Rupert,” Petraeus said.
“I know Roger, he’s done okay,” McFarland replied, “but . . . no, I think the one who’s bankrolling it is the big boss.”
“That might be it,” Petraeus said.
“Okay,” McFarland said, “the big boss is bankrolling it. Roger’s going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.”
“Yeah, right, okay,“ Petraeus said.
“We’re all set.”
“It’s never going to happen,” Petraeus said. “You know it’s never going to happen. It really isn’t.
“My wife would divorce me,” he added. “And I love my wife. . . . We have a beautiful house.” Both Petraeus and McFarland laughed. “With his-and-hers bathrooms, believe it or not. I just want to live in it. I’ve never spent a night in it.”
The digital recording also provides a glimpse into the close relationship Petraeus had with the news media, especially Fox News. At one point, McFarland declared that “everybody at Fox loves you,” adding that Ailes had directed her to ask Petraeus whether “there [is] anything Fox is doing, right or wrong, that you want to tell us to do differently?”
Petraeus didn’t hesitate. “The editorial policy of Fox had shifted,” he said. “It was almost as if, because they’re going after Obama, they had to go after Obama’s war as well.” He said he had discussed this with Bret Baier, a key Fox anchor.
“Papers and news outlets have editorial policies,” Petraeus said. “They know sort of how their bosses feel about things . . . and it causes a certain shading,” Petraeus continued.
One example, according to Petraeus: “Off the record, the New York Times was never going to give Bush or Iraq a break. I don’t care what happened.
“In fact, one time Thom Shanker [a Times military correspondent], who I think very highly of, wrote a piece. And it was on me, before I was going to testify one time, and they had — a pretty good piece, I mean, factual, in other words. Again, all we want is the truth. We’re not out to spin. But then it had this sort of really odd thing inserted in it. And it was something that had been proven unfounded, but it sort of bounced around on the MoveOn.org kind of Webs. And I said, ‘Thom, where did that come from?’ He said, ‘Oh, that was added by the editors.’ ”
Both journalists had different recollections. Baier said he recalled no such conversation with Petraeus. “That’s B.S.,” he said. “We cover the war the same way no matter what administration is in power.”
Shanker also said he did not remember saying anything resembling what Petraeus asserted. “I don’t blame the editors for what appears under my byline,” he said. “It undermines your own credibility.”
On Monday, Ailes, 72, said there was “zero chance” he would leave Fox to reenter politics for Petraeus or anyone else. “The money is too good,” he said, declining to say how much he earned, although reliable reports have pegged the amount at roughly $20 million per year under a new four-year contract.
“I left politics in 1988 because I hated it,” Ailes said. “My main interest is seeing my 12-year-old’s basketball games.”