Bedfellows Unite

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For KCRW, I'm Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

Did you hear the one about an executive at Fox News Channel telling a New York publisher to lie about her affair with a former cop because it might damage Rudy Giuliani's presidential aspirations?

Last week, Giuliani dismissed the scandal as just a tabloid story not worthy of his attention. But Giuliani's close ties to Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News and his friend of 20 years, mean his presidential campaign is getting a powerful boost from his pals at Fox, which has the highest ratings in cable news.

Ailes was the media consultant to Giuliani's mayoral campaign in 1989. Later, as mayor, Giuliani officiated at Ailes's wedding. As Frank Rich put it in Sunday's New York Times, Giuliani, a "full-service mayor to his cronies... lobbied hard to get the Fox News Channel on the city's cable boxes" in 1996 after Aisles had set up the channel for Rupert Murdoch. Judith Regan was given her own program on Fox's early lineup, and it was Ailes who named it "That Regan Woman."

"Who at the News Corporation supposedly asked Ms. Regan to lie to protect Rudy's secrets?" Rich asks. "Her complaint does not say. But thanks to the political journal The Hotline, we do know that as of the summer Mr. Giuliani had received more air time from Fox News than any other G.O.P. candidate, much of it on the high-rated Hannity & Colmes."

Not surprisingly, Fox News barely gave air time last week to Regan's claims, Rich says. Neither did the Wall Street Journal, which the News Corporation is in the process of buying.

Regan's lawsuit, which contends she was unfairly fired by Murdoch for her handling of O.J. Simpson's faux memoir, says that a senior executive at News Corporation told her he believed "she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani's presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik."

As Rich says in his column, Regan's message is plain: "She knows a lot about Mr. Kerik, Mr. Giuliani and the Murdoch empire. And she could talk."

Kerik started out as Giuliani's chauffeur and rose to become New York police commissioner. Later, at Giuliani's urging, he was President Bush's nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, as The Smoking Gun website put it, Kerik is Giuliani's "political albatross." Earlier this month, Kerik was charged in a 16-count indictment with fraud, tax evasion, obstruction and other felonies.

Rich's colleague Russ Buettner wrote last week that Regan's affair with Kerik, who is married, began in 2001 while her imprint was working on his memoir. The lovers met at an apartment near ground zero that had been donated as a haven for rescue and recovery workers.

In August, Buettner wrote that the other duo in this story, Ailes and Giuliani, "have been pulling for each other for nearly two decades." They grew close enough that when Ailes was hospitalized in 1998, Giuliani showed up at his bedside bearing gifts. This year, they were tablemates at the White House correspondents dinner, which Giuliani attended as a guest of Fox's parent company.

And yet Ailes complained during the Clinton administration about the friendship between the president and Rick Kaplan, who headed CNN at the time. Ailes called it the "Clinton News Network."

So much for "fair and balanced."

In Sunday's New York Daily News, Patrice O'Shaughnessy wrote that Regan once said her life "was transformed when Bernard Kerik walked into her publishing office in 2001 and told her his story."

"As it turned out, both their lives would never be the same.

And now, their notorious, short-lived, mutually beneficial affair could torpedo, or at least dog, Rudy Giuliani's presidential hopes."

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.



Nick Madigan