Sunday, November 27, 2011

Feuding in Fox-land?

From New York Magazine:
Sarah Palin's announcement that she wouldn't run for president disappointed her legions of admirers — but it infuriated Roger Ailes. The Fox News chief wasn't angry  about the decision itself. Rather, he was livid that Palin made the October 5 announcement on Mark Levin's conservative talk-radio program, robbing Fox News of an exclusive and a possible ratings bonanza. Fox was relegated to getting a follow-up interview with Palin on Greta Van Susteren's 10 p.m. show, after the news of Palin's decision had been drowned out by Steve Jobs's death. Ailes was so mad, he considered pulling her off the air entirely until her $1 million annual contract expires in 2013.

After the announcement, he called Fox's executive vice-president Bill Shine into a meeting. Shine is the network's principal point of contact with Palin. Ailes told him she had made a big mistake. "I paid her for two years to make this announcement on my network," Ailes pointedly told Shine. Sources described the episode on condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the relationships.

Palin is said to have made her announcement on Levin's show because she's been upset that Fox News has given a platform to Karl Rove, one of her principal critics. "She isn't happy with Karl," one Palin adviser told me. "From day one, he hasn't been very nice." Levin had become Palin's biggest booster in the conservative commentariat, and Palin is known for rewarding loyalists, and punishing her detractors.

Shine was deputized to handle the matter. He spoke with Palin's agent, Bob Barnett, and told him that Ailes was furious with Palin's move and that she was at risk of being "benched." Fox still had to pay her, but they didn't have to give her airtime.

Anything that infuriates Roger Ailes is fine by me, and feuding among right-wing loons is all they deserve, wouldn't you say?

But I do think that Sarah Palin made a big miscalculation here. Oh, I never expected her to run for President, because she's making too much money right now on Fox. After all, that's why she resigned as governor, only halfway through her first term.

Being a governor was more work than she wanted, and far less lucrative than being a professional celebrity. Once she dropped that public service anchor, she was free to rake in the big bucks. Running for President would risk all that.

But her big mistake was to announce her decision at all, at least this early. Forget about where she announced it. That only matters to Roger Ailes. Just announcing it at all made people stop paying attention to her, and that's the kiss of death to a celebrity.

It hasn't helped that there are more than enough loons running for the Republican nomination already. But until she announced her decision, that didn't keep her from hogging the limelight. Remember when Palin went barnstorming around the country in her bus, taking media attention off the candidates themselves? (I'll bet that burned their butts, huh?)

The media were all breathless in their speculation - would Sarah Palin run, or wouldn't she? But as soon as she announced her decision, that was all over. All that attention has gone to the candidates, now. And for a celebrity, losing media attention is a disaster.

I suspect - assuming the above story is true - that this might be a big part of the reason for Ailes' anger. He's got a contract with a right-wing celebrity who is suddenly not such a celebrity anymore. And how can Palin say something outrageous enough to grab the headlines again, with people like Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich spewing so much crazy themselves?

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