Through the Wire


Contributors: Ted Hearn, Steve Donohue.

What’s Right to Roger Ailes Is America

To say that Fox News Channel is right-wing isn’t right, according to Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

The 24-hour news channel is, if anything, pro-America, which annoys the competition and Fox News bashers in the establishment media, who ridicule the channel’s “fair and balanced” slogan as false advertising.

“They suspect we like America,” Ailes said in a C-SPAN interview that was to air Dec. 19. Not that his media foes hate America. “They are just telling you what’s wrong. There’s never a good story about this country.”

As an example of news bias, Ailes noted that 95% of the U.S. labor market is employed, but the media harp on the 5% who are jobless.

“Everything is negative,” Ailes said, partly blaming the training journalists receive in graduate schools for the absence of news balance. “I always tell journalists, reach out to a point of view you don’t agree with and make sure it’s in that story. It’s simple stuff, but you have to do it.”

Ailes taped an hourlong interview with Brian Lamb for a new C-SPAN series called Q&A. Topics covered Ailes’s early career in radio and TV, as well as his political consulting jobs with presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush before he turned Fox News into a cable news powerhouse that he and Rupert Murdoch built from scratch.

Fox News, Ailes said in the show’s transcript, lived by its “fair and balanced” credo despite attempts by critics to paint the network as a public relations arm of the Republican Party.

“What they are trying to do is say that Fox News is mixing opinion and fact. That’s simply not true,” Ailes said, telling Lamb that he doesn’t hire reporters based on their political beliefs.

Ailes told one story about an unnamed university that solicited a financial contribution. After teaching at the school and talking to some students, Ailes didn’t write a check because he came away disappointed with his findings. “I said, 'I’m not going to give you any money until you can graduate somebody who likes America.’ And I said, 'As soon as you get me someone like that, I’ll give you some money.’ ”

Lamb Soon Gathering History Helper Award

C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb lines his office with tomes and Tweety Birds (the latter for reasons we can’t explain). But Lamb will need to clear some shelf space in January when he receives the Roosevelt-Wilson Award from the American Historical Association at the organization’s 119th annual meeting in Seattle.

Lamb, who recently ended his weekly Booknotes program after 15 years and 800 interviews with authors and historians, will be recognized as a person “who has made extraordinary contributions to the study, teaching and public understanding of history.”

The award, presented for first time last year to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), honors U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, authors of history and past AHA presidents.

Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, will present Lamb with the award. Lamb is to scheduled to provide a few remarks. The AHA conference draws about 5,000 people.

Although the prize does not come with cash or a Tweety Bird, it does provide Lamb with a lifetime AHA membership.

Lamb said via a C-SPAN spokesman that he’s very honored by this recognition and will be traveling to Seattle to accept the award.

Imus Has Tough Love For 'ER’-Like MSNBC

Don Imus, who was a bit miffed on Tuesday when MSNBC preempted the last half hour of the simulcast of his Imus In The Morning radio show to cover The Golden Globes nominations — which is televised on NBC — tweaked the network Wednesday morning as he promoted that night’s schedule on MSNBC.

Said Imus: “Tonight at six, The Abrams Report. He [Dan Abrams] is a little too hysterical. I mean he does a good job, but calm down. He just gets beside himself and he’s screaming at the camera when these verdicts come down.

“And Chris Matthews with Hardball — I really like him and he’s done some great interviews, but he does not look healthy though. He’s fat and pasty, but I really like him.

“And another guy who is fat and out of shape is Keith Olbermann, and I like him as well. Deborah Norville [Deborah Norville Tonight], she looks like she has her act together, and [Scarborough Country host Joe] Scarborough is a mess — poor guy with the back deal. And that’s what we have at MSNBC, just like an E.R.”

Pat Buchanan and Monica Crowley have been filling in for Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, who is out with back problems. While Imus pulls no punches on MSNBC, he regularly tells listeners that he’s a huge fan of the network, which beats CNN in morning ratings, thanks to the simulcast of his radio show.

Big Wind, Big Hearts: Big Cash for Red Cross

In response to the damage wrought by four successive hurricanes, Bright House Networks spent money on extra crews to get the cable operator operating again. According to the American Red Cross, the company also dipped into corporate coffers to help the community at large.

The operator, hit hard by two strikes through its Tampa, Fla., cluster, donated $1 million to the charity’s relief fund for Tampa, Orlando and the surrounding areas.

“We did some great things with that money. It was a big factor,” said Sarah Marchetti of the Red Cross. Microsoft Corp. and the Lily Endowment Inc. were the biggest donors, in the $5 million-plus club, but with its donation, Bright House joined the ranks of other corporations including Johnson & Johnson, the Kresge Foundation and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Bright House wasn’t the only cable-related company singled out for praise by the Red Cross. The Walt Disney Co.’s DisneyHand charity donated to relief, as did networks MTV: Music Television and Trinity Broadcasting Network.

The Red Cross said donations like those enabled it to mobilize the largest feeding and sheltering operation in its 123-year history.

Hawaiian Dream Come True

Jim Chiddix, the former Time Warner Cable CTO and current chairman and CEO of OpenTV, recently completed a labor of love: a 350-page coffee-table book about Hawaii’s Oahu Railway & Land Co.

Chiddix says the narrow-gauge railroad — built about 60 years ago to serve the sugar and pineapple industries — has fascinated him since he first went to the island in 1971 and began his cable career there.

Speaking of himself and co-author Mac Simpson, a Hawaii historian, Chiddix said: “We’re very proud of the book, and it’s selling well — but I’m keeping my day job.” See for more information about Next Stop Honolulu! The cover (pictured) is a commissioned watercolor by John Hugh Coker of Durango, Colo., of a train pulling out of A’ala station.