Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, Gawker's John Cook recently got his hands on a handwritten note Fox News president Roger Ailes sent to Condoleezza Rice in March 2005, shortly after Rice was confirmed as George W Bush's secretary of state. On its face, it certainly doesn't make the cable news channel chief look like a model of journalist impartiality. It reads in full:
Great first month. You handled hearing beautifully. If I can be of help off the record—just call.
It's worth pointing out that there's no evidence to suggest that Rice did indeed take Ailes up on his offer. Rice responded with what looks to largely be a form letter, and a Fox News spokeswoman, likewise, denied that Rice ever asked for the help Ailes had offered, adding that Ailes "speaks to powerful people from the left and the right all the time" in his role as the head of a news organization.
While Ailes certainly wouldn't have been the first journalist to try to butter up a government official with kind words—many Washington reporter-source exchanges are full of that kind of "no, really, I agree with you" type of opening pleasantries before they get down to business—the letter does little to refute the perception that Fox News falls somewhat sort of its "fair and balanced" promise.
To wit, here's Cook's closing paragraph:
Please just imagine for a moment how Fox News would cover the publication of a private note from the editor of the New York Times to an Obama Administration official offering "help off the record."