Audit Notes: Roger Ailes biography, gun mags, Wells Fargo sales

The Times reports new details of Gabriel Sherman's upcoming book

The NYT got hold of Gabriel Sherman’s upcoming biography of Fox News svengali Roger Ailes and prints some of the juiciest reporting, including Ailes offering an employee $100 a week for sex, using anti-Semitic slurs against a rival, and telling Fox in 2012 “to elect the next president.”

All news, of course, but most impressive is this (emphasis mine):

Mr. Sherman said in the source notes that he interviewed 614 people who knew or worked with Mr. Ailes for the book, which took more than three years to report and write. More than 100 pages are devoted to source notes and bibliography.

Six hundred and fourteen!

And this statement from Fox’s flacks is a gem (emphasis mine):

A Fox News spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday: “These charges are false. While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.”

That the book was never fact-checked by Fox News and that the opportunity to fact-check it was never given to Fox are two very different things.

— E. Scott Reckard’s Los Angeles Times investigation of Wells Fargo’s over-aggressive sales culture (which I wrote about yesterday) drew interesting responses from readers who say they’ve been conned or outright defrauded by Wells and from workers who attested to the boiler-room culture:

I left Wells Fargo in October 2010 for the same reason and without another job lined up. The places they would send us to get accounts were just insane. One place we were sent was to blood banks, where people would donate blood cells for money — individuals who were struggling for money. I saw a lot of people come and go as they were caught doing unethical things just to meet their numbers.

And here’s more fodder for an overdraft investigation:

Thanks for your reporting. No wonder [Wells Fargo] opened a $50 check account in my name & signed me up for overdraft protection even though I never asked for it. This is like the old AOL who penalized their employees if customers canceled their accounts — so trying to quit was as hard as getting out of the mafia. I understand the business climate has become really cutthroat in this tightwad economy and have sympathy for the employees who were fired. They did wrong but were forced into it.

— This New York Times piece on the ostracizing of a Guns & Ammo columnist and TV host is well worth your time.

Dick Metcalf, whose gun-loving credentials can’t be questioned, wrote a common-sense column arguing that the Second Amendment doesn’t prohibit all regulation of weapons.

For that, he’s lost his column and TV show, after two big advertisers—gunmakers—said they’d yank their money unless he was canned. That elicits this quote from the magazine’s editor:

Garry James, a senior editor at Guns & Ammo, said in a phone interview several weeks ago that its readers were the magazine’s main concern and its editorial independence was not at risk. But, he added, “advertisers obviously always have power, and you always feel some pressure.”


But probably the best part of the story is this:

Mr. Venola, the former Guns & Ammo editor, described the relationship between the magazine’s editors and the gun makers as a necessarily cozy one. “You have to be in cahoots with the manufacturer, in order to make the publication appeal to the readership,” he said. “Say you write about boats. At some point you’re going to end up on the sun deck of a boat, downing sundowners after testing one, with the guy who makes it. It’s just how it happens.”

(Mr. Venola had murder charges against him dismissed in Arizona last year. He said he was defending himself after fatally shooting a neighbor during an argument.)

That paranthetical’s for the ages.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,