Roger Ailes brings big-city paranoia to small-town newspaper

The Fox chief harasses, spies on the editor of his hometown pet project

Published April 18, 2011 6:45PM (EDT)

                  (REUTERS/Fred Prouser)
(REUTERS/Fred Prouser)

Here's some free career advice for all you struggling reporters out there: If Roger Ailes buys the small-town community newspaper you work for, seek employment elsewhere. Because, as Gawker's John Cook and Hamilton Nolan report today, he might have News Corp. security officers tail you and conduct surveillance on your lunches.

Not long ago, Ailes bought a home in a quiet village in Putnam County, N.Y. And then be bought up all the homes surrounding his home, and then he bought two local county newspapers, and used them to wage a political war against new zoning regulations. This is just the sort of thing that Roger Ailes does.

At that first newspaper he bought, he installed, as publisher, his wife, Elizabeth. As editor he hired a former Weekly Standard editorial assistant named Joe Lindsley.

Lindsley and Ailes pushed the paper to the right, began editorializing against liberalism in all its forms, and generally injected the usual endless Ailes culture war nonsense that infects everything he touches. Until Lindsley quit, for reasons unknown. And then, as Gawker reports, Ailes stepped up the paranoid weirdness:

The reason, multiple former employees say, is that in late March, Ailes confronted the three staffers and accused them of badmouthing him and Elizabeth during their lunch breaks. Small towns being what they are, Lindsley, Haley, and Panny frequently drove several miles north of the News and Recorder's Cold Springs, N.Y., office to privately have lunch in another town. When Ailes accused them, he knew which restaurant they frequented, leading the three to believe that Ailes wasn't merely bluffing and that he'd actually had them followed.

After Lindsey quit for good, things got weirder. He was driving to a deli in Cold Springs for lunch earlier this month when he noticed a black Chevrolet Navigator that seemed to be following him, according to several sources familiar with the incident. Lindsley drove aimlessly for a while to make sure he was being followed, and the Navigator stayed on him. Then he got a look at the driver, who was a News Corporation security staffer that Lindsley happened to know socially. Lindsley continued on his way and later called the driver to ask if he was following him. The answer was yes, at Ailes' direction.

The papers aren't owned by News Corp., making this use of News Corp. staff even more inappropriate than it would've been otherwise.

Sources also tell Gawker than Lindsley and Elizabeth Ailes were so close that Lindsley attended church with her when Roger Ailes was away. And at one point, she is reported to have said: "When Roger dies, you're going to have some special responsibilities around here." And that, honestly, is the sort of sentence best left to murderous trophy wives in film noirs, not reality.

Former staffers at the paper also suspect that their email is being monitored, and their offices may even be bugged.

Fox refused to comment, because this is not a News Corp. matter, but Elizabeth Ailes did forward Gawker a scan of a Christmas card Lindsley sent the Ailes, as well as an email from Lindsley in which he says Gawker's John Cook "sounds like an asshole."

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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