Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief and former Republican strategist, urged then-Gen. David Petraeus to consider running against President Obama in the 2012 election, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward reported.
Ailes reached out to Petraeus through Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and three-time Republican Pentagon aide, who was was traveling to Afghanistan in spring 2011.
He asked her to tell Petraeus to think big: If President Obama didn't offer the NATO commander chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the top post in the military — he should resign in six months and run for president.
Ailes, who advised Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said through McFarland that he would consider resigning from Fox to run a Petraeus campaign, Woodward reported.
Woodward obtained a 90-minute recording of the conversation in Petaeus's Kabul office. During the conversation, Woodward reported, McFarland hinted that News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch might "bankroll" the presidential bid.
“Rupert’s after me as well,” Petraeus told McFarland.
"[The] advice to you from Roger Ailes is. . . . He says that if you’re offered [JCS] chairman, take it," McFarland said in the recording. "If you’re offered anything else, don’t take it; resign in six months and run for president.”
In a later interview with Woodward, Ailes denied his desire to be a "kingmaker," and said his offer was at least somewhat facetious.
"It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have," he told Woodward. "I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate."
He said McFarland's tone in the recording makes her sound like she was on "a secret mission" for the Reagan Administration, and said she was "out of line."
But the report comes just weeks after Gawker uncovered a note in which the Fox News founder sent a note to George W. Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, praising her early performance and offering "off-the-record" advice.
Fox News did not immediately respond to emails from TheWrap requesting comment.