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Exclusive: Boehner Baited Ailes With Non-Public Info on Benghazi Probe in Attempt to Sway Fox News Bookings, New Book Reveals
In 2014, then-Speaker of the House John Boehner tried to bait Fox News Chief Roger Ailes into pulling certain conservative lawmakers off the Fox airwaves by revealing non-public information about a forthcoming House investigation into the Benghazi attack, according to a new book set to be released next week.
The book, “American Carnage” by Politico Magazine correspondent Tim Alberta, also shares that Ailes—who at the time was the CEO and chairman of Fox News— told Boehner, without any evidence and in a rant that reads as bizarre and unhinged, that President Barack Obama was spying on him.
The book sets the scene of the meeting between Boehner and Ailes in the spring of 2014, a period of time when Boehner and his allies were feeling exhausted and embattled amid a civil war in the House Republican caucus. The hardliners—or “absolutists,” as Alberta describes them in his book—were waging war every day against the House speaker.
Boehner was also growing exasperated with cable news, specifically with the extreme conservative guests that Fox News would book who were hurtful to the GOP’s messaging and his attempts to control his caucus.
Boehner placed much of the blame on conservative radio host Mark Levin, telling Alberta that after 9/11, “Levin went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side; he dragged Rush [Limbaugh] to the dark side. I used to talk to them all the time, and suddenly they’re beating the living shit out of me.”
According to Alberta, Boehner met with Ailes to deliver a request: Stop booking guests from the fringe of the GOP—the members who only sought conflict and not solutions, including Reps. Louie Gohmert, Steve King, and Michele Bachmann.
Boehner felt that by giving these members a platform on the most-watched cable news network, Ailes was making Boehner’s job as speaker more difficult.
Ailes dismissed Boehner’s concerns. “Don’t worry about them. They’re just getting ratings.”
But like any speaker who is charged with doling out favors to get members in line, Boehner had something to offer Ailes—news he thought would help sway him to stop booking the members of Congress who caused him angst.
It was no secret that Ailes despised Hillary Clinton. Boehner, according to Alberta, did not feel as strongly about her, but he was prepared to offer up a juicy morsel for Ailes to enjoy and to show that he wasn’t as weak as Ailes thought he was.
The public didn’t know it yet, but Boehner was preparing to launch a House investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The investigation would focus on Clinton’s handling of the attack as secretary of state.
Alberta describes Boehner’s efforts before launching the United States Select Committee on Benghazi as “actively building an in-house opposition research room to damage [Clinton’s] presidential prospects in 2016.”
But the bait didn’t go over the way Boehner expected. The mention of Benghazi “tripped a switch” in Ailes, Alberta writes.
Ailes—according to Boehner’s description to Alberta—suddenly became “high-strung and wary of his surroundings.” He told Boehner that he truly believed that Obama was a Muslim who wasn’t born in the United States. He said the White House was “monitoring him around the clock because of his views.” And Ailes had responded by making sure his house was “fortified with combat-trained security personnel and ‘safe rooms’ where he couldn’t be observed.”
In his interview with Alberta, some of which was previously published in a Politico Magazine article, Boehner said about the meeting with Ailes: “It was the most bizarre meeting I’d ever had in my life. He had black helicopters flying all around his head that morning. It was every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard, and I’m throwing cold water on all this bullshit. Ratings were ratings to Murdoch, but I began to realize that Ailes believed in all this crazy stuff.”
Tim Alberta’s book “American Carnage” will be released this Tuesday.
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