By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
When conservatives complain about Al Sharpton, they usually note his relationship to NBC news or his hosting a show on MSNBC. But a new book says the racial agitator and Democratic Party politician has considerable clout with Fox News, and in fact played a role in getting conservative Glenn Beck fired from the channel.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson says “people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do not deserve to be called civil rights leaders. They are not. They are hustlers and pimps who make a living off inflaming racial tensions.”
However, The Zev Chafets book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, has some revealing passages about the clout that Sharpton and Jackson have with the chairman and CEO of Fox News. It says Ailes took a phone call from Sharpton after Beck, then a Fox News host, staged a rally at the Lincoln Memorial 47 years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the same location. Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, designed to pay tribute to America’s military personnel and restore traditional values, was strongly attacked by figures such as Sharpton and George Soros-funded groups like Media Matters, then campaigning to have Beck fired from Fox News.
Chafets says Reverend Alveda King, a national pro-life leader, delivered a conservative “I have a dream” message of her own at the Beck-sponsored rally that was “infuriating to many viewers,” and Ailes as well. “Ailes didn’t like it much, either,” he reports. However, the book doesn’t explain why Ailes took issue with the rally or the speech.
The book adds, “When Al Sharpton called him [Ailes] to complain, Sharpton was surprised to hear Ailes say he would ‘take care’ of it.” The passage is included in the context of Ailes making a decision that “he would have to get rid of Glenn Beck” and telling Howard Kurtz, then a media reporter with The Daily Beast, that “he was turning down the partisan heat at the network” and was pursuing “a more moderate tone” in programming.
Kurtz, who was recently hired by Fox News, is described by Michael Clemente, Fox’s executive vice president of news, as “the most accomplished media reporter in the country,” despite a series of embarrassments over erroneous and controversial columns and media appearances which resulted in his firing from The Daily Beast.
While the Chafets book is considered sympathetic to the chief of the Fox News Channel, it notes that Beck’s firing followed his strong criticism of billionaire George Soros and a vigorous campaign by various left-wing groups against him.
Chafets also points out that then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), another liberal recently hired as a Fox News commentator, is a member of the “roster of Friends of Roger” and an old “buddy” of Ailes.
Accuracy in Media chairman Don Irvine noted that Kucinich was “one of the most liberal members of Congress until he lost his seat after redistricting in 2012,” and that he was “the latest in a string of liberals at Fox, including former Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Bob Beckel, Sally Kohn, Jehmu Greene and Santita Jackson who have joined the network in recent years.”
Ailes declared, “I’ve always been impressed with Rep. Kucinich’s fearlessness and thoughtfulness about important issues. His willingness to take a stand from his point of view makes him a valuable voice in our country’s debate.”
Chafets notes that Ailes is also personal friends with Jehmu Greene and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for whom he wrote an endorsement for her book critical of the use of U.S. military power.
However, the pandering to Sharpton is not new on the part of Fox News. Back in 2007, as AIM reported at the time, popular Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly paid homage to Sharpton at the civil rights agitator’s national convention. Indeed, O’Reilly himself was an honored guest at the event.
But Sharpton isn’t alone among civil rights agitators in having clout at Fox News. The Chafets book has a photo of Ailes posing with Jesse Jackson after Jackson delivered a keynote address at a 2012 graduation ceremony of the Ailes Apprentice Program, a venture designed to support and promote “diversity in broadcast & cable journalism.” It is open to “top diversity candidates,” presumably meaning non-whites, and sends young people to events featuring such groups as the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
“Few people realized that Jesse Jackson, of all people, is a friend of ‘Brother Roger,’” says Chafets. “Fewer know that Santita Jackson [another liberal hired by Ailes as a Fox commentator] is one of Michelle Obama’s closest friends: Jackson is a godmother to Malia Obama.”
The book says Jesse Jackson “happened to mention” to Ailes that his daughter Santita had lost her job as a Chicago radio talk-show host and was “looking for a new gig” when Ailes decided to hire her.
We noted at the time that Santita Jackson listed the notorious Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. as being among her personal “activities and interests” on her Facebook page. She was also a supporter of New York University law professor Derrick Bell, who supports race-based hiring policies.
Such liberal hires, the book notes, “makes Fox more difficult to assault as a bastion of racism.” Chafets adds, “It means that one of the nation’s premier civil rights leaders owes him [Ailes]. And, as an extra bonus, it is sure to cause a little heartburn for Jackson’s chief rival, Al Sharpton. After all, Sharpton has daughters, too.”
The implication is that Sharpton might hold back on his criticism of Fox because of favors Ailes could do for him.
Nevertheless, some Fox News personalities continue speaking the truth. “They don’t represent anybody, they’re not elected to anything, they don’t have constituencies,” Tucker Carlson said of Sharpton and Jackson. “The only reason they’re allowed to do this is because we in the press enable them by calling them civil rights leaders. Why do we do that?”
Perhaps it’s because the head of Fox News fears and respects their political power.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected].