Battle of Titans: Huffington vs. Ailes Shakes Up Walters on ABC
It could have been the WWE Smack down of Sunday talk. Arianna Huffington, the liberal queen of the blogosphere took on Roger Ailes, the Fox News conservative king maker on ABC’s This Week. And political junkies and media mavens did get some end-of-weekend red meat to gnaw on. But what a feast it could have been if not for guest host Barbara Walters, who to her credit, did manage to get the portly political maestro( reportedly a personal friend) in the round table chair for the first time. Unfortunately, Walters has evolved into a skittish host, whose years on the volatile View, may have caused her to become cautious and actually steer away from controversy. Just as things were getting juicy, Walters had to go to commercial break or segue into a new topic.
Still, even with Walters undermining the drama and Paul Krugman and George Will along as buffers, Huffington and Ailes generated exciting television. Huffington cornered Ailes early, asking if he was concerned with the hateful and inciteful rhetoric of Glenn Beck. Isn’t Ailes worried when his Fox firebrand uses inflammatory words like “slaughter” and “killing spree” in relation to Obama and the Democrats? Huffington asked. Ailes said, “He was talking about Hitler and Stalin.” When she pressed further, insisting Beck was in fact, talking about the Obama administration, Ailes, remaining as calm as he is corpulent, said, ” we can’t be the word police.”
Or apparently the fact police. HUFFINGTON POST has fact checked Ailes contention and–surprise–he’s wrong. Beck specifically took aim at the Obama administration in October 2009, warning of a killing spree: “Spread the wealth–hello, Mao– this is what this is all about– and anybody not on board, look out, because you could be the next victim of the killing spree.” And in November 2009, the Beckster warned of the impending slaughter: “These people ( Obama administration/Democrats) are taking you to a place to be slaughtered.”
Without the documentation at her finger tips, Huffington persisted with another jab at Ailes well-concealed moral compass. “Aren’t you concerned that what historian Richard Hoffsteader calls ‘the paranoid’ style is dangerous when so many people are suffering?”
Ailes punched back: “Yeah, I saw something in your blog that said I looked like J. Edgar Hoover, had a face like a fist and was essentially a malignant tumor.”
Huffington, unable to hold back her glee, attributed the remark to “an anonymous commenter” and not a writer on the HuffPo payroll.
The fire from the exchange could have cut down ABC’s heating bill. So, of course, Walters had to intervene and cool things down. And to be fair both Krugman and Will did offer, as the usually do insightful and substantive analyses from two very different perspectives on Scott Brown ( who Walters interviewed during the show’s first segment), the State of the Union and the President’s Q&A with the GOP. But come on, news junkies have been consuming these conversations all week. Huffington and Ailes were cooking up the most provocative Sunday debate brunch on TV in a long time.
And they weren’t quite done yet. Even as Walters was wrapping up the round table segment, Huffington got in another punch. She asked Ailes, who had just boasted about his sky high “fair and balanced” ratings, why Fox News opted to cut off the coverage of Obama’s historic and triumphant appearance at the House Republican retreat last Friday.
Ailes feeble response? “Because we’re the most trusted name in news.” Huh? Forget the malicious audacity of such a statement. It doesn’t even make sense. If an outlet–any outlet–is truly to be trusted to provide fair and balanced news coverage–it certainly would carry the entire event. Unfiltered. That’s how trust is garnered. Or rather should be. Wake up, people. Regardless of political affiliation, everyone deserves to have the facts. And when a rare live, unedited event like Friday’s is available, the public has a right to see it. No matter who comes out the perceived victor. Apparently, even twenty more minutes was too long for the paranoid rabble rousers on Fox News to wait to start spinning the reality out of the event.
Ailes will never call out his rabid talk dogs. Not as long as they maintain high ratings. As he said, “We’re not in the politics business, we’re in the ratings business.” Talk about transparency. Social and moral responsibility are clearly absent from both Ailes’ lexicon and his conscience.
But on display–especially with a fierce opponent like Arianna Huffington–they do make for engaging television. And that’s all a ratings monger could ask of anyone. Now let’s watch as the Fox attack team spins the boss’ performance into twisted ratings gold.