In a recent defamation lawsuit against Fox News, Dominion Voting Systems contends that dozens of people with editorial responsibility—from the top of the organization to the producers of specific shows to the hosts themselves—made false on-air statements that Dominion’s voting machines were programed to change the results of the 2020 presidential vote so that Trump could lose. The late Roger Ailes, founder and former chairman of Fox News, was instrumental in setting up the network’s news division. In their play Rupert!, Marvin Kitman and Richard Lingeman imagine Ailes explaining the philosophy behind his proposed news channel.
AILES: We will be giving both sides of an issue. Republican and Democratic. Provided they are both conservative. That’s what the underserved viewers never get to hear.
MEL [a journalist character]: Will Fox News be objective?
AILES: Fox News will be the place to find subjective objectivity.
MEL: So Fox News is going to be a code word for right-wing news.
AILES: That’s what all the left-wing critics will say. We say, it’s fair and balanced, responsible journalism. Anyway, it will only look right wing because the rest of the media is so far to the left.
MEL: Will Fox News have an agenda?
AISLES: Fox News will give the other side of the story.
MEL: How do you go about reporting the other side of the story?
AILES: We will serve the underserved by finding the stories our audience didn’t even know they should be angry about until we started paying attention to them.
MEL: Shouldn’t news just be telling what has happened? Shouldn’t you just stick to the facts?
AILES: We will always be in favor of using facts. At least the facts that support our side of the story.
MEL: How do you find facts you can trust?
AILES: Video clips are a good place to start. You can always find something that looks bad for somebody by cutting a piece out of it and making believe it’s the whole thing.
MEL: What happens if anybody points out the whole truth—the bigger truth—you find when you play the whole video clip?
AILES: Nobody knows what they are talking about anymore. Who cares? We have found another Big Story of the Day that the leftists have been ignoring . . . In the unlikely event that we are found out to be not telling the truth or getting something wrong—of course, we apologize. One time out of ten.
MEL: At three in the morning?
AILES: People remember when you level with them.
MEL: This is right out of the George Orwell. Playbook: War is peace. Black is white.
AILES: The more you repeat something on TV the truer it gets. In the daytime, Fox News will give them our facts. At night, instead of just repeating news that people have been hearing all day long, we fill prime time with our news people talking about what everybody else has been hearing all day long.
MEL: So you’ll feature talk shows disguised as news shows.
AISLES: We will put on members of the punditocracy. Left and right. We wind them up and they yell.
MEL: Yeller journalism.
AILES: Whoever yells the loudest wins the debate.