The Prologue plus extras
by Daniel Cooper
Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to brainwash
into thinking right-wing ideology is actually the political center. And
he did. And, I'm ashamed to tell you, I helped him.
I made a lot of money that year: 1996. I owned and loved living in an
elegant cooperative apartment building on
in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and
the Guggenheim. The hallways were floored with inlaid marble. You placed
your garbage in custom designed mahogany chests outside your front door.
The doormen called me mister.
I was a Democrat. Meaning I was so important to right-wing News
Corporation that I was given a piece of what they called "the heavy
lifting" on a project of extraordinary importance to Rupert Murdoch — a
key role in conceiving and building out the Fox News Channel. When I was
done, Roger Ailes, Chairman of Fox News, “reorganized” things and had my
job “eliminated”. How come? Wait and see. But hear me now: the work I did
was the best I had ever done, the best that could be done, and Roger knew
My contract had more than 6 months to run when I was reorganized, and it
contained a pay-or-play clause, meaning that if I were not employed, I
would still have to be paid salary and benefits until the termination
date of the contract, even if I got another job. Did Roger give a shit
that I got paid after he reorganized me? Oh yes.
Roger wanted to break the contract and stop paying me immediately. The
News Corporation attorney assigned to Fox News later told me that she
confronted Roger and told him Fox was going to honor my contract and pay
me until the terminal date. She reminded him that I had done
extraordinary work, and that it was out of the question to do less than
treat me with respect. Roger conceded. The contract concluded in June of
1997. Roger put that turn of events into a bank account called "ROGER
AILES D/B/A DON'T FORGET TO FUCK OVER DAN COOPER FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE
LLC" That bank account had been opened the day Roger was told to put me
at the center of the launch team. Deposits were being made frequently,
some because I had forgotten to take Groveling and Masochism 101 in
school. The truth is, I'm a bit of a narcissist, and I'm quite impressed
with my own opinions. So I've always gotten myself in trouble with
bosses. On the other hand, I'm really fucking talented.
In July of that year, 1997, I was sweating profusely in the back of a
taxi cruising down
Upper West Side.
I was wearing my favorite outfit, one I favor to this day. I call it my
uniform. It features one of my dozens of Brooks Brothers polo shirts (the
ones with the logo depicting a dead lamb hanging from a rope, amusingly
referred to over the many decades by Brooks as the Golden Fleece), Gap
jeans, Nike sweat socks and Asics shoes. The polo was soaked through from
the humidity. My cell phone jingled and shook. It was my agent, Richard
Leibner was the most powerful agent of TV news personnel in the United
States, representing 800
pound gorillas like Diane Sawyer and Bill O'Reilly. I had known him as a
friend for 20 years and as my representative on and off for just as long.
Richard shouted, "Where are you?". The street noise was deafening. I
screamed "I'm in a cab on the
Richard shouted. This was a dumb question. Of course I did. "Turn your
cab around and go see Irwin Weiner right now. Now!" Irwin Weiner had been
CFO of ABC News when the legendary TV pioneer
Roone Arledge was news and sports president. I knew Irwin well,
having worked closely with Roone years earlier on the ABC News magazine
20/20. Irwin now ran an independent production company. Literally
three days later, I had a deal to create and produce a weekly half hour
for WNBC-TV. I plunged into my work. Ultimately, the series was a great
success, and the people I worked for did the one thing that enables me to
do my best — they left me alone. And kept complimenting me. It was a very
pleasant time, except for one thing — I developed an intense crush on a
beautiful 23 year old blond who worked for me, couldn't stand me, but had
a clear idea how to get ahead. Which wasn't helpful with my wife. I
thought I was over falling for women who didn't like me and who were
blatant manipulators. Apparently not.
The fresh air of hands-on production, good ratings, and great people to
work for was healing after the horrible experience of working at Fox. Of
course there's a but, and the but came two months after I went to work on
the NBC series.
In the fall of 1997, the writer David Brock called me and told me he was
researching a cover story about Roger Ailes for
New York magazine. Could he
Brock called me, I presumed, because I was the only Fox News executive
who had once been in the inner circle of the inner circle, and was now in
the wild. I knew pretty much everything everybody wanted to know. The
question was, could I talk and live? I paused. Now, I just adore spilling
the beans. It's so much fun knowing something first. But much of what I
knew about Fox News was secret, presumably proprietary information
presumably belonging to News Corporation. And Roger Ailes didn't like
snitches. Well, screw him, right? He needed a smack. Or maybe not a smack
— maybe a tap or something. To play it safe.
I went along with the interview on the condition that it be on background
— meaning no quotes, no "I spoke with a former" anything, that what I
would tell him was strictly for his knowledge. Brock agreed.
Brock opened the conversation with a 10 minute monologue proclaiming his
ill-regard for Roger. This impressed me. Most writers were terrified of
Roger, and he threatened them in no uncertain terms. I asked Brock if
Roger had offered to "destroy him". Brock laughed. Yes, indeed he had.
Ailes told Brock he would "never work again" if he wrote the article.
Brock found this idea hysterical. I didn't.
I answered all of Brock's questions. Two hours worth. Why did I give the
interview about Roger, risky as it was, even on background? Because I
knew about that SCREW COOPER LLC bank account, and I saw the interview,
done carefully, as a way to begin to ingratiate myself with a man I knew
to be a schoolyard bully — a coward at heart. Yes, Roger, I'm talking
A friend of mine had a father who plied the psychiatric trade. Dad
advised, "Bullies have no ego esteem. They need respect. Always show
respect to a bully". I hadn't done that when I worked for Roger. I was
badly burned. Now, terrified of Roger's wrath and its consequences on my
career, I figured if I filled Brock up with an exclusively complimentary
picture of Ailes and my work, maybe the karma would come back around. And
besides, Fox was so stupid they paid me out without requesting a
non-disclosure agreement. Maybe I was safe. And it was on background.
I raved about Roger's brilliance as a marketing strategist. About his
uniquely focused, intensely demanding leadership. I said I had never done
anything so hard, so well, in such an exciting environment in my life.
And it was all because of Roger's never-ending inspiration. I said
absolutely nothing negative.
When the article was published on
November 17, 1997, it was no longer a cover story.
Like most articles about Roger Ailes, it was only marginally critical,
with just a hint of admiration. It was at the least a toned-down version
of the blast-furnace analysis Brock told me he planned to write. Nothing
in it was traceable to me.
A few weeks before the article was published, I was lounging on the sofa
in my study on
watching TV and reviewing scripts. My wife Gina was emailing strange men
in foreign countries on the computer, a habit she seemed unwilling to
break. I was fantasizing about the 23 year old blond, who that day walked
into the elevator facing me, threw her shoulders back, projecting toward
me her extraordinary breasts, stared at me, and backed up against the
opposite wall, putting a sexual no-man's-land between us. The phone rang.
Which phone was ringing? That would be the one on the desk in my study,
remember? I jerked out of my fantasy. The call was from my agent, Richard
Let me repeat for you again, because I want you to hang on to these
facts: the phone rang a few weeks before the
New York article was
published. The call was from my agent, Richard Leibner.
Richard asked me to come in to see him.
Well now. This didn't bode well. When Richard had a job offer for me, he
would always tell me on the phone. Gina suggested I jump in a cab and get
over there right away and not take a nap, which was usually my instinct
in these sort of situations. I always listened to her. Gina had a nose for
trouble unlike anybody I had ever met. She was also the best thing that
had ever happened to me. An extraordinarily brilliant, amazingly
beautiful woman, she was 15 years my junior and the catch of the century.
After six years of marriage, I loved to simply look at her. Her abundant
strawberry hair; her incredible legs; her perfect feet; the six pack she
was developing running ten miles a day in Central Park and working with a
personal trainer at the most expensive health club in Manhattan. It
really was conjugal contentment, just watching her there writing emails
to other men.
Naturally, she had somehow psychically decoded my captivation with the
blond, and things were a bit frosty.
In my jeans and polo shirt, I impatiently waited for the elevator to the
antiqued-up lobby with the massive four foot bouquet of fresh cut
flowers, and ran out into
to nab a cab before any of my neighbors who were standing on the corner
"ahead" of me.
Richard Leibner's waiting room was a bit over the top. The walls were
overhung with framed magazine covers and articles ballyhooing Richard and
the marvels of his agency, N. S. Bienstock. The greatest item on display
was a front page of Variety with a huge headline reading "TOO MUCH
JACK IN THE BIENSTOCK". This topped an article documenting the bitter
whining by CBS News executives that Richard Leibner was sapping them dry
of money by negotiating incredibly high salaries for his clients there.
Richard's receptionist showed me in right away. His familiar office was
adorned with a jukebox and shelves bearing such hideous tsochkes I
couldn't even look at them. Richard was leaning back in his leather
chair, so far back his head was practically touching the floor — his
favorite position. I plopped myself as usual on his black leather sofa. I
stretched out my legs, intent on looking cavalier. I'm 6' 2", with long
legs and big feet. My sneaker bottoms were up in Richard's view. But I
was braced for the worst, because maybe this had something to do with the
Brock article, which, remember, had not been published yet.
There was nothing in the world of the New York City news media that
Richard Leibner didn't know before everyone else. Could he have found out
about the interview? Richard usually opened all phone conversations and
meetings with a really dirty joke. Not today. In his distinctively Great
Long Island accent, Richard leaned forward and
asked me, "Danny. Did yoo give an intavyoo to Noo Yawk magazine?"
I gave him a deadpan stare and paused. So. He knew about the article.
Which hadn't yet been published. Agents were supposed to protect their
clients, and knowing about articles in the works was what they did. But
how could he know I gave a background interview? Brock wouldn't tell him.
I used a deliberately flat tone of voice. "Do you want me to answer that
"I already know the ansa. I got a phone call from Roger Ailes an owwa
ago. He told me that until I drop you as a cloyent, any demo tapes I send
ovah for talent jobs will sit in the cawwna and gatha dust". Drop me as a
client? Threatening to damage my agent's business if he didn't drop me
from his client roster? Tapes gathering dust if he didn't cut me out?
This was certainly pure Roger, icing the poison cake with a darkly comic
visual metaphor. Roger was part Don Rickles and part Don Corleone. He was
going to leave the tapes there for years maybe, and never have them
dusted. And maybe send photos of them to Richard. Unless Richard stopped
I stared at Richard. For a long time. I sat up and leaned in close to
him, face to face. I made the connections. Ailes knew I had given Brock
the interview. Certainly Brock didn't tell him. Of course. Fox News had
gotten Brock's telephone records from the phone company, and my phone
number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the
Americas, News Corporation's
New York headquarters, was what Roger
called the Brain Room. Most
people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But
unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the
Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops
office. So accessing phone records was easy pie.
This threat against my agent was a deadly blow. What would happen when
the NBC series I was working on was cancelled, which was inevitable?
Everything gets cancelled. Everything depended on Richard finding me work
Understand that I knew Richard so well that back in 1980, when he
negotiated his client Dan Rather into his client Walter Cronkite's anchor
chair, he whispered the secret news to me at a party the same night he
made the deal. Understand that I first met Richard in 1976, the day I was
fired as assistant news director of
famous Eyewitness News. I had embarrassed every other manager in the ABC
owned stations division by strategizing and delivering the highest
ratings in New York television news history. I had
to go. Leibner called me about three seconds after I was fired, and said,
"OK, Danny, you've been fired. Now you can do anything. You're going to
be hugely successful". He got me my job at Fox. I was loyal to him, and a
friend. I thought he was loyal to me.
"I gotta phone call from Roger Ailes, Danny. He told me I have ta drop
you. If I don't, any tapes I send over for on-air jobs will sit in the
corner and gatha dust", he repeated.
"You're going to drop me because of a threat from that shithead?" I was a
rocket of rage, and I flushed beet red.
"What can I do? I have a business ta run". He shrugged.
"Good, Richard. You run your business. I'll take care of myself". I got
up and started for the door.
"Don't just leave! I'll help you find somebody else. I'll make
From outside Richard's office, looking in, I said, "I'll take care of
myself, thank you, Richard".
So I had no agent. Gina and I decided it was time for me to get out of
the TV news business. What was the point? Ailes would flatten me at every
turn. And she wanted me close to her, with no more little blond cuties
tempting me. Roger had won. For the time being. Or forever.
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