Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said his network is committed to presenting all perspectives on the news and accused other networks of being one-sided at the Kalb Report Thursday night.
“The American people felt they weren’t getting the whole story on some issues,” Ailes said, citing his reason for creating the network. “The mainstream media covers the same stories, the same way, every day.”
Ailes spoke at the National Press Club event moderated by former CBS and NBC correspondent Marvin Kalb, who is one of two finalists for director of the School of Media and Public Affairs. A former consultant to several Republican presidents, Ailes created Fox News in 1996 and now heads the No. 1 rated cable news station. Kalb said the network is “the definition of media success.”
Ailes explained how in the past, networks’ news divisions often lost money, but that Fox seeks to break the mold.
“If you don’t run it as a business, it will go belly up,” Ailes explained.
Ailes attacked the mainstream media throughout the night, alleging they are out of touch with millions of Americans.
“The elite media thinks its fly over country between the Hudson River and Sierra Madres,” Ailes said.
Ailes stressed that his network’s mission is to try to put news in context. He said that while Fox would pursue any investigation or scandal it has evidence of, some mainstream journalists have become cynical and forgotten that “freedom of the press did not invent democracy.”
“Fair has a lot to do with impartiality and honesty. Balanced means there are smart, reasonable people on both sides of these debates,” Ailes said, explaining his network’s slogan and mission statement.
But organizations such as Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting claim that Fox News is nothing but a right-leaning outlet attempting to pass for a non-biased source of information.
“It would be no problem if they would simply come clean about who they really are … they cling to some sort of credibility that they don’t even have,” said Peter Hart of FAIR.
Some point to Ailes’ past involvement with Republican presidents as a conflict of interest with his role in journalism.
“The organization has the character of a political campaign more than a newsroom … their point is always to be on attack,” Hart said.
On Thursday night, Ailes refused to apologize to those who oppose his network. He said that if more conservative thought gets into Fox, “maybe it’s because you don’t see it elsewhere.”
“Sometimes people would like you to apologize for things they don’t like,” Ailes said. “I don’t do that.”
By focusing on “an issue of the day,” every aspect of the network, from news personalities to producers behind the scenes, hit home a specific message, in many ways analogous to a political campaign, Hart said. Fox News often draws criticism in other areas, including its visuals, hiring processes and one-on-one interviews.
“Ailes tactics are not in the service of journalism,” Hart warned.
Kalb presented Ailes with a Pew Research study conducted by the University of Alabama that concluded 73 percent of Fox stories expressed opinion by either an anchor or reporter. Ailes dismissed Pew as a “liberal lobbying organization.”
Ailes also addressed broader media issues, such as the tendency for news networks to spend weeks focusing on one issue such as the Scott Peterson or Michael Jackson trials.
“I think we’re all guilty of following one story to the exclusion of everything else,” Ailes said.
Ailes also defended the media for reporting on evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, saying journalists rely on sources for their information, and all sources said there were weapons.