Fox News' Roger Ailes Sends Off Jon Stewart: "I Actually Think He Doesn't Dislike Me"

Fox News' Roger Ailes
Wesley Mann

"He’s a brilliant comedian. He’s actually a very nice guy," the president of Fox News told THR, noting that Stewart "has a bitter view of the world."

As Jon Stewart's final Daily Show approaches, the comedian has mocked Fox News Channel mercilessly, even comparing Roger Ailes to death itself. It’s almost as if he’s been daring the network’s president to respond. Now, Ailes has.

"He’s been after us for years. Occasionally we pay attention. We think he’s funny. We never took it seriously, and he never made a dent in us," Ailes told The Hollywood Reporter after being contacted on Wednesday.

The Fox News chief added: "As he faces the end of his career, he’s beginning to wonder: ‘Is this as popular as I’m ever going to get? Is this as much power as I’ll ever have? The one person I could never get rid of was Roger Ailes. I tried. I did everything I could.’ This was all a plea to his lefty friends. I think he’s disappointed that he didn’t accomplish that goal, and we, of course, supplied him with half of his comedy. It’s just a matter of disappointment."

During his show last week, Jon Stewart showed a clip of the Ingmar Bergman movie The Seventh Seal, only he substituted Ailes for the Death character. Ailes told THR he hadn’t seen the segment, but he wasn’t surprised at the vitriol aimed at him.

“He’s feeling unrewarded because Fox News beats him on the amount of money we make, on ratings and on popularity. I’m sure it’s very depressing when he sits home at night and worries about it. We never did,” said Ailes.

"He’s a brilliant comedian. He’s actually a very nice guy, and I saw him with his kids on the street. He’s a good father. He has a bitter view of the world, and you see it embodied in how he’s reacting to Fox News, equating it with death."

On an episode of the Comedy Central show this week, Stewart did his best to eviscerate Fox News yet again, but then ended the segment on an unusually serious note: “I’m just playing around with you guys. Your hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the Fox model. It’s the feature. Your job is to discredit any source of criticism that might hurt the conservative brand by angrily holding them to standards you yourselves jettisoned in your news network’s mission statement. But I’d be happy to listen — if you make an actual argument.” (See the segment below.)

Ailes said he didn’t take even that attack all too seriously. "You can’t say that many negative things about people unless you’re really unhappy about something," he said. "I actually think he doesn’t dislike me. We met once or twice. I talked to him for an hour once in my office. I think he’s really smart, and he’s got a great future."

At Fox News, perhaps? “No. He can’t come over here. He would depress everyone,” said Ailes. “I could get him a job. Not on air. As a stagehand.”

Ailes also took a jab at Stewart’s nascent career as a film director that began in 2014 with Rosewater, a drama about a journalist captured in Iran. The movie made just $3.1 million worldwide.

“Knowing him, he’ll direct movies with sort of a left-wing point of view, and America’s a terrible country,” said Ailes. “Somebody needs to tell him that 90 percent of what Hollywood puts out already does that. He’s going to have to find another niche.”

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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