Stephen Chao is best known for his firing from Fox in 1992, when he hired a male stripper for his boss Rupert Murdoch during a conference speech attended by Dick and Lynne Cheney. Chao was attempting to explain that in Europe, violence on television is taken far more seriously than nudity and sexuality, the opposite of in the U.S., but his Dark Lord was not impressed and terminated him directly after. Years prior, Chao had thrown Murdoch’s dog in the pool at a party to test its swimming ability. Chao went on to work at McDonald’s and now runs WonderHowTo.com. These are just a few of the zany stories that Chao addressed on Friday afternoon when he took to the Reddit comment board, probably to plug his business.
In a post entitled, “I was President of FOX, got fired by Rupert Murdoch and now I own a web company AMA,” Chao verified his identity right away by posting the above photograph of himself holding a printout of the Reddit logo. He gave a quick rundown of his bio before writing, “Without further ado, Ask Me Anything.”
What followed were over 1,400 comments and hours of answers by a man with a fascinating career path and an openness well suited for the web. For example, when asked about his post-Fox stint working fast food, Chao answered:
In truth having been a tv exec for 10 years, I wanted to do something that I would not ‘take home from work’ mentally. I also was sick of all the television people I had worked with. For me, it was very satisfying to go, flip burgers, come home and go to sleep. I had been watching television probably 18 hours a day for ten years.
On the subject of the male stripper incident, Chao went into detail about his ideology:
In the Netherlands in the 60’s, the government decided to allow nudity on television, while simultaneously banning violence. This was their emphatic statement that violence was not acceptable, and that human nakedness would be (previously banned) acceptable. They wanted to realign television standards and practices to mirror their view of what was social versus anti-social. To demonstrate this policy shift, the government filmed a naked person for 24 hours on national television, a kind of Warholian exercise in the mundane. It made a huge point in terms of standards and practices. Violent movies/tv shows were taken off national television. In my opinion, a bold move by the Government that radically adjusted the Standards and Practices of a population. In my speech, I was discussing the Netherlands television example and posing the question whether the sight of a naked person was more offensive than seeing a violent murder of a person. I happen to believe the Netherlands government did a very positive thing….that would be difficult to pull off in the context of a puritanical FCC.
Also a veteran of the National Enquirer, Chao answered questions about the paparazzi of the past, which he called “fantastic.”
If anything, the comment thread proves a never-ending public fascination, at least online, with Rupert Murdoch and Fox, especially the news division. Of his relationship with his ex-boss, Chao had a surprising answer:
Oddly we have remained friends. I had created America’s Most Wanted, and put COPS on the air, so my efforts still kept going. I was offered a producer deal shortly after getting fired….a Hollywood ending to a Hollywood incident.
When asked about “directives” from Murdoch “on high,” Chao was similarly positive:
He is a journalist through and through. He just wanted a great story with aggressive reporting, plain an simple. There certainly was never a political directive. I ran the News Division for Fox. After I was fired, Roger Ailes took over, and I cannot speak to his point of views. In my opinion he has totally revived the Wall Street Journal. It is fun to read again. People naturally want me to talk crap about him, having been fired by him. But I have to say he is the one great media executive alive today. He is fearless in pursuing markets and stories that have a populist underpinning. And he loves it.
As for throwing the dog in the pool, Chao has no regrets: “Rupert thought the dog incident was hilarious. His then-wife was staring daggers at us.”
If you have some time, dig through the rest here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 11, 2010