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Naked Launch Creating Fox News


"Naked Launch: Creating Fox News"
copyright Daniel Cooper 2005-2014
all rights reserved




Naked Launch
The Prologue plus extras

by Daniel Cooper 

  Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to brainwash America 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
Park Avenue 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 it.

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
Columbus Avenue on the 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.

leibner.jpgRichard 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 West Side!"

"" 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 interview me?

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 about you.

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
Park Avenue, 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 Leibner.

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 ginawedding.jpgfor 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
Park Avenue 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 Neck, 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 question?"

"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 representing me.

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. foxnewsid.jpgMost 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 again.

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
New York's 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 inchaducshins."

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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