For two years, as an ambitious twentysomething, Joe Lindsley had a closer relationship with Roger Ailes than any Fox News executive. He lived, for a time, on the Aileses property in upstate New York, vacationed with Ailes and his wife, Beth, and served in effect as a surrogate son. Ailes’ secretary even leaned on Fox News staffers and on-air talent to make themselves available as dates for Lindsley, who, starting in 2009, served as editor-in-chief for two newspapers Ailes had purchased in upstate New York – and, apart from the Aileses, led a relatively isolated life there.
But then Lindsley suddenly decided to leave, throwing the then 71-year-old media mogul into a panic. Ailes was so furious about his departure that he tried to ensure Lindsley could never work as a journalist in Washington. Or, at least, that’s what he told Bill Kristol shortly after Lindsley’s departure.
Lindsley had come to Ailes from Kristol’s Weekly Standard, where he had served as a research assistant to the magazine’s executive editor, Fred Barnes. His dramatic exit was widely reported at the time because, those news reports alleged, News Corporation security guards tailed him through the Hudson Valley’s quaint local towns, seeking either to lure him back or to shut him up.
Ailes’ relationship with Lindsley was all the more extraordinary because the late Fox News chief didn’t cultivate protégés—he decapitated them. Since the founding of Fox News in 1996, several executives who had served a rung beneath him had found themselves suddenly exiled to the outer reaches of the network or fired outright. But Lindsley, four decades Ailes’ junior, was different. Ailes treated him like a son, laid out a promising path for his advancement, and, according to Lindsley, introduced him to people as “Ailes Jr.”
When Ailes died last year of complications after slipping in his bathroom, few people had more insight into the man and, in retrospect, Lindsley’s departure from Ailes’ orbit foreshadowed the sensational events that led to his demise.
Shortly after Lindsley’s departure in 2011, alarmed by what his newly liberated deputy might say, Ailes, at a meeting in his office at News Corporation headquarters in Manhattan and again in subsequent phone conversations, pressed Kristol to blackball Lindsley in Washington media circles, according to several sources familiar with the conversation. Kristol told Ailes he didn’t have the power to that. When Kristol’s Fox News contract expired at the end of 2012, the network did not renew it, and his relationship with the network was permanently severed.
Now, a little more than six years after Ailes’s failed attempts to silence and banish him, Lindsley has written a novelistic memoir about the two years he spent at Ailes’ side. He spoke with POLITICO in his first on-the-record interview since he left Ailes’s employ in April of 2011.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night shouting, ‘I gotta tell this story,” Lindsley says. “When I left Fox, I was not beholden. I had never signed non-disclosure papers, I was in a unique position.”
He has spent the past two and a half years writing Fake News, True Story, a process he describes as an unburdening as well as a psychological reckoning of the sort Ailes would never have allowed.
“When Ailes was at the top of his game, he was raging at something – everything would melt out of his way. And I was the same way. I considered rage my chief talent,” Lindsley says. “The rage was a cover for deep wounds that were never healed, that were never even addressed.”
The most puzzling thing about the book is that Lindsley couldn’t find anybody to publish it. Instead, he’s using the self-publishing platform Inkshares to get the manuscript out. If he can sell 750 advance copies, Inkshares will edit, publish and distribute the book. When this article went to print, he had sold 176.
The publishing industry has hardly shied away from Fox News memoirs. Harper Collins is seeking more than $1 million from Ailes’ estate – the hefty advance the publisher had paid the 77-year-old media titan, who died in March, for an autobiography he will never deliver. His immediate successor as Fox News president, Bill Shine, who has since been ousted and is the subject of numerous lawsuits, is currently shopping a memoir even though he is constrained by a tight non-disclosure agreement, according to a publishing executive and a Fox News employee. And Megyn Kelly retroactively added a chapter to her book, Settle for More, before it hit the printer when Ailes’ ouster from Fox opened an avenue for her to recount sexual harassment she said she had suffered at the network.
Lindsley is calling his book a memoir but it takes an unusual format. Written in the third person – he says the protagonist, Jack Renard, who becomes an apprentice to Roger Ailes, is his alter ego – it lands somewhere between memoir and roman à clef. It opens as Renard has a flashback induced by a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder, itself induced by his experiences with Ailes – so the book almost begs readers to question its veracity. During Renard’s first meeting with Ailes, the Fox chief declares, “The President of the United States” – Barack Obama, of course – “is a terrorist.”
And though Ailes himself doesn’t get a pseudonym, others do. Lindsley writes, for example, about network anchor Susie Sunseed, whose “exposed, tanned, toned, smooth legs sway gently underneath her clear glass desk.” He changed names and personal details to protect the privacy of friends and former colleagues, he says.
One publishing executive to whom the book was pitched—Lindsley’s agent, Matt Guma, shopped the book extensively throughout the Manhattan publishing world, and has represented the likes of Jay-Z, the Dave Matthews Band and Usain Bolt – said the book reads like “somebody having a manic episode,” and left him uncertain what was real and what was made up.
As far as Lindsley is concerned, that’s precisely the point. He doesn’t disguise the fact that the bookwriting process, and the book …read more
Read more here: ‘I Want to Explode’ — A Roger Ailes Protégé Bares His Soul