Roger Ailes actually defends Brian Williams: “He’s a talent who made a dumb-ass error”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ailes also sounded off on Jon Stewart, Ted Cruz and mangoes

Published April 20, 2015 2:55PM (EDT)

Roger Ailes, Brian Williams     (Reuters/Fred Prouser/AP/Evan Agostini)
Roger Ailes, Brian Williams (Reuters/Fred Prouser/AP/Evan Agostini)

May's issue of The Hollywood Reporter features an in-depth interview with Roger Ailes, the founder and head of Fox News. During the course of the conversation, which took place in early April, Ailes and writer Marisa Guthrie discussed everything from Jon Stewart to Brian Williams to Ailes' own legacy.

Here are some of the best nuggets:

On being a politician:

"I hated the political life. Every night is a fundraiser. It's sort of empty. If you're in the Senate and in the minority, you just get to give speeches and run around and raise money. If you're in the majority, you're under attack from the press every day."

On Ted Cruz's chance of winning the GOP nomination:

"Listen, we elected Warren G. Harding. Anybody has a chance. You don't know who you're going to be running against. If the other guy falls on his rear end, you could win."

On Brian Williams:

"I think Brian's a talent who made a dumb-ass error… When you spend your life around CEOs and generals and presidents, you can start to feel less than, particularly if you don't have a college education, you never joined the service. And so you get tempted to do something stupid. So I think he can admit that and say, 'I screwed up.' And most people are willing to forgive. I'm a great believer in giving people a chance. If you haven't actually killed someone or done something that's irreparable, then it's a matter of going on a little journey and never ever doing anything like that again."

On giving liberals a voice on Fox News:

"I don't give a rat's ass… My job is to cover the news and do it accurately and fair. And we do. And voila! We have the largest number of independents watching television of any channel. Why is that? Not because we suck around and try to talk these people into watching our programming. We do programming that appeals to them, and so they tune to us. That's how you get them. You can't be chasing these little balkanized groups of people around. It's just nuts. Do your programming. It should be American. We're Americans. It's a culture. We should defend that culture, and we should reinforce that culture."

On why Jon Stewart will never be hired by Fox News:

"Under the guise of comedy, he can do anything. He's figured out a way to win. But you don't invite a guy like that in-house to pick his ammunition and shoot you with it."

On his legacy:

"I'm going to leave that to other people. The only reason I'm working on a [memoir] right now for HarperCollins [a subsidiary of News Corp] is because I don't want my son to have to collect a bunch of New York Times articles to see what I was like. He knows me around the house. But you read the New York Times, you think, 'Gee, my dad was a monster.'"

He added that the criticism doesn't bother him, except for how it might affect his son:

"I did what I did… I went against the grain. And I understood that I would be criticized. Those were all choices. I really can't bitch about it. They are choices I'd make again. At this age, when you've got a wife, you've got a kid, you've got a family, you think, 'I could have made a lot more money, I could have had a lot bigger house.' … I actually have a big house, but I wanted a castle."

On mangoes: 

"Liberal fruit."


Update: This article has been updated to reflect that Ailes said Fox News would never hire Jon Stewart. It originally stated that Jon Stewart would never appear on the network at all, due to an error in the original Hollywood Reporter interview.

By Joanna Rothkopf

MORE FROM Joanna Rothkopf

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Brian Williams Fox News Jon Stewart Marisa Guthrie Politics Roger Ailes Ted Cruz The Hollywood Reporter