Fox News says Ailes "speaks to powerful people from the left and the right all the time"
Fox News head Roger Ailes offered "off-the-record" help to President George W. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice, in a 2005 letter obtained by Gawker, a Fox spokeswoman acknowledged to TheWrap.
In the handwritten note, Ailes praised Rice and said he was just a phone call away. Gawker's John Cook obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request and presented it as evidence of conservative bias at Fox News despite its "fair and balanced" slogan.
"Great first month," wrote Ailes, who recently re-upped his contract as Fox News chief. "You handled hearing beautifully. If I can be of help off the record — just call."
A Fox News spokeswoman told TheWrap that Bush officials never took Ailes up on the offer and said in a statement to Gawker that he "speaks to powerful people from the left and the right all the time."
The network did not immediately respond to a question from TheWrap about whether Ailes has offered help to any members of Democratic administrations.
"Mr. Ailes provided no assistance whatsoever and there was no mention of the Bush administration," Fox News said in its statement. "Secretary Rice never took him up on the offer, which was a personal media-related one. As the head of a news organization, Roger speaks to powerful people from the left and the right all the time — if every other news chief wants to release their off the record correspondence and conversations, Roger will too."
Rice responded to Ailes with a thank-you letter, in which she crossed out her aide's generic "Mr. Ailes" address and hand-wrote "Roger" in its place.
Despite its "fair and balanced" motto, Fox has frequently been accused of having strong conservative leanings. Ailes, who helped found the channel, once served as an aide to Republican President Richard Nixon.
Cook, who often covers politics and political media for Gawker, previously uncovered a memo in the Nixon library showing that Ailes and the president planned to "put the GOP on TV news."
In his report on the letter, Cook noted the vagueness of the term "personal media-related" and pondered how Fox would cover a New York Times editor offering help to the Obama administration.
"I'm quite positive there are similar notes of encouragement from Ailes in the files of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, both of whom are surely finding Fox News' coverage to be quite 'helpful' right now," Cook wrote with more than a little sarcasm. "It goes without saying, but: Please just imagine for a moment how Fox News would cover the publication of a private note from the editor of the New York Times to an Obama Administration official offering 'help off the record.'"