Was it an assault?

By Germanm

Sep 28, 2006 1:55pm

ABC’s Robert Garcia blogs about the latest chapter in Pres. Clinton vs. Fox News:

wallaceclinton2006 Was it an assault?Fox News Chief Roger Ailes is up in arms over the now famous clash between former President Bill Clinton and Fox’s Chris Wallace. He says Clinton had a "wild overreaction" and his "attack" on Wallace was "an assault on all journalists."

How supremely ironic that Roger Ailes would be saying this. On January 25th, 1988, it was Ailes who, sitting five feet away from then Vice President George H.W. Bush in his Senate office in the Capitol building, literally used cue cards to help orchestrate the now-famous Bush confrontation with Dan Rather over the Iran/Contra affair.

ratherbush1988 Was it an assault?Longtime television news producer, Howard Rosenberg, now with Nightline, remembers well. He was the co-producer of the set-up piece Dan Rather used that Bush — cued by Ailes — claimed was an ambush. It was Bush who asked Dan Rather how he would feel if people judged his career by an infamous moment in which Rather walked off the CBS News set in a huff when CBS Sports coverage cut into his news time.

But the slam at Rather occurred only after Bush feigned surprise at his tough questioning. We know it was feigned because in an interview with ABC’s Sam Donaldson in 2000, Bush himself, admitted that the GOP had a mole on the inside at CBS who gave them advance word of the questions Rather was going to ask.

And those of us who worked at CBS at the time also recall the Ailes-orchestrated telephone campaign from viewers "outraged" over Rather’s show of "disrespect" to the Vice President. The phone calling onslaught was so effective it brought the CBS-New York switchboard to a grinding halt for nearly three days.

Bush and Ailes knew they were going into a hostile interview that had a wicked set-up piece to preface it and they arrived for the Rather interview loaded for bear. Kind of like Clinton walked into FOX studios last Friday loaded for bear. It’s history repeating itself from the other side of the political spectrum. And how exquisitely ironic that Roger Ailes would play such an interesting role in both events.

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