Upon joining the meeting, Ailes shook Obama's hand and sat down next to him. As Ailes recalls it, he responded to Obama's concern about fairness by saying that "there are opinion shows and there are news shows." Some of the criticism, Ailes told him, has come from conservative commentator and co-host Sean Hannity -- whom he likened to MSNBC's more liberal pundits Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.
Hannity has led the media pack in repeatedly playing videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor, and questioning his association with William Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s. In a recent interview with Glamour magazine, Obama said Fox News and others went after his wife, Michelle, "in a pretty systematic way. . . . If you start being subjected to rants by Sean Hannity and the like, day in and day out, that'll drive up your negatives."
"If you're asking me if we're going to be in the tank for you, like MSNBC and CNN, the answer is no," Ailes recalls saying. Executives at the rival cable networks say it is Fox's political coverage that has been unfair.
According to Ailes, a onetime adviser to Republican presidential candidates, when Obama asked what issues Ailes was concerned about, he replied, "The sovereignty and security of the United States of America, period." Obama, he said, responded by talking about his love of country and his plans to end the Iraq war.
The talk turned to "The O'Reilly Factor," and Obama said he would appear on the show before the election. Ailes says he told the senator that there would be no "embarrassing or underhanded stuff" in the interview and that if he had any overall concerns about Fox's treatment in the future, he should call Ailes directly.