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Although it's been giving up ground to CNN this election season, the Fox News Network is still a target of derision by liberals who never fail to be exasperated by its "fair and balanced" motto. But for Fox haters, there's a delicious (if uncorroborated) new look behind the scenes at the network's startup now appearing online, courtesy of one of the people who helped birth it.
Dan Cooper, a former Fox News managing editor who helped conceptualize and design the channel in its first six months, has written a book dishing dirt on Fox News guru Roger Ailes. Cooper worked at the Fox network from 1994 to 1996, and claims to have been a critical part of the "brain team" that put the news channel together; he helped design the studios, the layout of the newsroom, and the program schedule. After six monthsand countless titanic fights with AilesCooper was made redundant and left to chase jobs producing television shows and managing talent in Los Angeles. But his subsequent divorce was so brutal that Cooper returned to his native New York to figure out what to do with his life. "The divorce was emotionally and financially shattering," he says. "I had to rebuild, and the idea came to me that writing a memoir about the birth of the Fox News Channel could be very lucrative."
According to Cooper, he titled his manuscript Naked Launch, snagged an agent, and shopped the project around town. But, he claims, publishers who showed interest were worried about alienating Ailes. So Cooper decided to serialize the book on his website (www.caos.us) and see if he could drum up publicity. He posted the prologue early last month.
Cooper spends most of his time guttersniping about Ailes's alleged swaggering, vindictiveness, and casual abuse of underlings. Near the prologue's conclusion, he recounts a story in which an Australian transplant named Ian stuck his head in Ailes's office and asked a question in an accent so thick no one could understand him. Ailes, Cooper wrote, always liked to imagine this employee as a pig with an anus for a mouth.
"Instantly, Roger's face was overcome with devilish glee," Cooper wrote. "Roger had no idea what he was talking about, and he didn't care. Roger made a fist and put it up to his mouth . . . 'Oim Eeyan Rye!!' Roger shouted. 'An oim tawkin troo me arse!!' This was supposed to be riotously funny. The other boys howled in hysteria. I sat down and slumped. Roger: 'Eeooo cayn't mike out what oim sighin, becawz oim tawking troo me arse!' . . . This was the man who created the Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch."
In another chapter, Cooper writes that Ailes allegedly demanded that bomb-proof windows be installed in his office, because he was concerned that homosexual activists might bomb Fox News when it debuted. As Cooper scrambled to find bomb-proof glasswhich doesn't exist, as it happensAiles also demanded that he get the city to chop down a line of trees outside his office. Every few days, Cooper wrote, Ailes would grab him and scream, "They're still fucking there! Don't you have any balls? Chop them fucking down!"
When Cooper isn't trashing Ailes, he's writing about the female employee he lusted after, or the men he believed his wife was sleeping with behind his back. The result is a hilariously idiosyncratic account of a flawed man and the terrible people he worked under. I may be an asshole, Cooper is saying, but you should see Roger Ailes.
Needless to say, Fox News representatives did not return calls seeking comment for this story. But Cooper's memoir is drawing more and more Internet buzz, and the legions of people who love to hate Fox News are feasting on the kind of gossip that almost never manages to leak out of the channel. Meanwhile, Cooper promises even more salacious dirt to come. As for whether he worries that Ailes will somehow retaliate, he says: "I'm staying away from skating rinks this winter. You never know who's driving the Zamboni machine."