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Ailes versus Arianna: Who won?

February 1, 2010 |  7:51 am

Arriana_huffington
It's rare in politics when two media gladiators go at it publicly. Usually, they stay in their own fiefdoms, secure in the knowledge that they are ruler of a vast and important empire.

But Sunday, the gloves came off when Arianna Huffington, the onetime gubernatorial candidate who has carved out a niche as a titan of the liberal blogosphere, faced Roger Ailes, the Republican operative who has built Fox News in his own conservative image on ABC's "This Week."

When Huffington challenged Ailes for putting former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on his airwaves, Ailes suggested that Fox was just showing its "fair and balanced" side by giving a platform to Palin as it had for Geraldine Ferraro, the Democrats' first female candidate for vice president.

“I'm not in politics," Ailes explained, "I'm in ratings.”

When Huffington complained that Fox commentator Glenn Beck was inciting paranoia among Americans about politics with comments like his accusation that President Obama was a racist, Ailes replied that Beck was "talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people. So I think he was probably accurate."

Here's the full exchange and the video.

HUFFINGTON: Aren't you concerned about the language that Glenn Beck is using, which is, after all, inciting the American people? There is a lot of suffering out there, as you know, and when he talks about people being slaughtered, about who is going to be the next in the killing spree...

AILES: Well, he was talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people. So I think he was probably accurate. Also, I'm a little....

HUFFINGTON: No, no, he was talking about this administration.

AILES: I don't -- I think he speaks English. I don't know, but I mean, I don't misinterpret any of his words. He did say one unfortunate thing, which he apologized for, but that happens in live television. So I don't think it's -- I think if we start going around as the word police in this business, it will be...

HUFFINGTON: It's not about the word police. It's about something deeper. It's about the fact that there is a tradition, as the historian Richard Hofstetter said, in American politics, of the paranoid style. And the paranoid style is dangerous when there is real pain out there. I mean, with...

AILES: I agree with you. I read something on your blog that said I looked like J. Edgar Hoover, I had a face like a fist, and I was essentially a malignant tumor...

HUFFINGTON: Well, that's...

AILES: And I thought -- and then it got nasty after that...

HUFFINGTON: ... that was never by anybody that we had...

AILES: Then it really went nasty, and I thought, gee, maybe Arianna ought to cut this out, but...

Ever since the show, liberal bloggers have been trying to figure out what Ailes meant when he said Beck apologized for some "unfortunate" utterance. Anyone know what it is?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Getty Images

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