If you ever had any doubt that Fox News maven Roger Ailes was a smart businessman who tries to protect his brand, this news erases it: New York Magazine reports that Ailes has ordered until-this-election-considered-a-political-genius Karl Rove and the-most-reliably-wrong-pundit-on-the-air Dick Morris kept off the air — or at least not put on the air unless producers get special permission to use them:
The post-election soul searching going on inside the Republican Party is taking place inside Fox News as well. Fox News chief Roger Ailes, a canny marketer and protector of his network’s brand, has been taking steps since November to reposition Fox in the post-election media environment, freshening story lines — and in some cases, changing the characters. According to multiple Fox sources, Ailes has issued a new directive to his staff: He wants the faces associated with the election off the air — for now. For Karl Rove and Dick Morris — a pair of pundits perhaps most closely aligned with Fox’s anti-Obama campaign — Ailes’s orders mean new rules. Ailes’s deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris. Both pundits made several appearances in the days after the election, but their visibility on the network has dropped markedly. Inside Fox News, Morris’s Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line. At a rehearsal on the Saturday before the election, according to a source, anchor Megyn Kelly chuckled when she relayed to colleagues what someone had told her: “I really like Dick Morris. He’s always wrong but he makes me feel good.”
The problem for Ailes — if he cares about Fox News as a brand — is that Morris had TRULY became a punch line, a reliable one that sparked instant chuckles or sad head shaking, one that had begun to undermine the credibility of Fox News. And Rove?
Multiple sources say that Ailes was angry at Rove’s election-night tantrum when he disputed the network’s call for Obama. While the moment made for riveting television — it was Ailes’s decision to have Kelly confront the statisticians on air — in the end, it provided another data point for Fox’s critics.
It couldn’t be lost on Ailes that what was not amazing was Rove clinging to talking points in the face of data — even data supplied by Fox News. What was amazing was that he challenged the network and gave the impression to viewers that if he disputed the network’s findings the entire news organization would ground to a halt to make sure Rove’s political nose wasn’t out of joint, rather than simply shrugging and moving on as its anchors would do with any other mere political mortal.
To be sure, Fox News is still popular with the conservative political choir, but it took a big hit on election night and weeks after from those who don’t worship at the altar of Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends as being an important part of an echo chamber that seriously mislead its viewers and, most likely, Team Romney as well.
A Rove-less, Morris-less Fox News won’t rebuild Fox New’s lost credibility, but it won’t hurt its credibility as much as it would if Rove and Morris continued to be presented as serious analysts. Rove came across as a quintessential peddler of talking points; Morris came across as someone who was talking out of a part of his anatomy considerably lower than his mouth.
A little (or long) rest might make them more valuable to Fox in the future.
Then again, it might not…
FOOTNOTE: Will this popular photoshopped photo come to pass if Rove shows up when he’s not wanted on the air?
Adios graphic via shutterstock.com