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According to Woodward, Ailes enlisted a Fox News analyst travelling to Afghanistan as a messenger of sorts to impart Ailes’ suggestion that Petraeus — then General, stationed in the country — do as follows: decline an offer via President Obama to be CIA director but accept a Joint Chiefs of Staff position; and if that job weren’t offered, Ailes advised, then Petraeus should step down from the military and launch a presidential bid.
Ailes’ chosen messenger: Kathleen T. McFarland, a national security analyst for the cable news channel and ex-Pentagon spokesperson for the Reagan Administration, with whom Petraeus talked for an hour and a half at his office in Kabul in spring 2011. The Washington Post said it has the conversation on tape.
At one point, Woodward wrote, McFarland informed Petraeus that Ailes might resign from his Fox post to manage a possible campaign for the official, held in high regard for his military leadership. The two also discussed the potential that Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch could “bankroll” a Petraeus bid, with the General saying: “Rupert’s after me as well.”
But Petraeus told McFarland he was considering the job with the CIA, which he called “a treasure” and “full of unsung heroes.”
Several months after meeting with McFarland, Petraeus officially transitioned to head the intelligence organization. Last month, little more than a year in the gig, he resigned after confessing to an extramarital affair.
In October of this year, Ailes signed a new four-year deal that give him continued oversight over Fox News.
The Fox News boss downplayed the dispatching of McFarland, whom he called a Fox contributor rather than a staffer, telling Woodward: “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have. I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
He said: “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It’s someone’s fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It’s not my job.”
In his discussion with McFarland, Petraeus — who requested his response to Ailes to be off the record — said a presidential run was “never going to happen.”
“My wife would divorce me,” he said, according to the Post. “And I love my wife. . . . We have a beautiful house. With his-and-hers bathrooms, believe it or not. I just want to live in it. I’ve never spent a night in it.”
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