The Slatest

The Other Reason Fox News Isn’t Helping the GOP Bring Order to a Chaotic 2016 Race

Fox News President Roger Ailes, seen here at a Hollywood Reporter event in 2012, was less than pleased with Chris Christie’s post-Sandy photo op with President Obama.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Republican Party leaders hope that the 2016 nominating contest doesn’t devolve into the type of circus that will leave its eventual nominee wounded ahead of the general election. Fox News executives don’t appear to have the same concerns.

As I’ve written about before, the network stands to gain from the chaotic nature of a race that is dominated by presidential pretenders. Fox’s decision to use national polling to decide who makes it on stage—and who doesn’t—at the first GOP presidential debate has put a premium on poll-boosting television appearances that reach millions over appearances in early-nominating states that reach only a fraction of that (see: Santorum, Rick). An added bonus: Today’s conservative candidates are tomorrow’s Fox News contributors. The more people who know Ben Carson’s name in 2015, the more who will tune into the Ben Carson Show in 2016.

But according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman—a man who literally wrote the book on Fox News and its chief, Roger Ailes—it’s not just the quest for ratings that accounts for the disjoint between the Republican Party and its TV station of choice. The other explanation? Ailes doesn’t like what he’s seen from the field so far, and in at least a few cases has told candidates that to their faces in no uncertain terms:

[A]ccording to Fox insiders I’ve spoken with in recent days, Ailes simply isn’t dazzled by any of the GOP contenders so far. In fact, he has gotten into it with some of the biggest names in the field. He recently clashed with Jeb Bush over immigration and his support for Common Core. According to one source, Ailes fumed at Bush that his education policy would wipe American history and religion from his teenage son’s textbooks. Ailes also tangled with Chris Christie over the Hurricane Sandy photo op that the New Jersey governor shared with Obama on the eve of the 2012 election. “You looked ridiculous,” Ailes snapped at Christie at the opening of George W. Bush’s presidential library. “You were like the fat kid in high school chasing the popular kid.” Christie, who’s used to doing the yelling himself, unloaded: “No one talks to me that way!” and stormed off.

According to Sherman’s sources, Alies doesn’t hate the entire field: He sees Scott Walker as a potential Fox News poster boy. Still, any affection Ailes has for the Wisconsin governor doesn’t appear to be strong enough to alter Fox News’ chaos-at-all-costs ratings strategy.

Elsewhere in Slate: The One Part of 21st Century Fox that Robert Murdoch Won’t Relinquish: Fox News

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.