Two new book reviews for Gabriel Sherman‘s “The Loudest Voice in the Room” are out. One, from Rupert Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff, published in Slate, the other in The Washington Post by media reporter Erik Wemple. Both agree Sherman’s lack of direct, on-the-record quotes from Ailes, (Sherman says he reached out “more than a dozen times for comment”) along with the author not backing up claims Ailes has divided the country, hurt the portrayal.
In Wolff’s review, he says Sherman offers nothing new from others who’ve pursued the Fox “whale.”
Sherman’s story is most vivid when it quotes Ailes himself. But, in a fairly underhanded way, only at the end does Sherman reveal that Ailes refused to talk to him. The book is, in effect, a compilation of Ailes’ memorable public barbs and bon mots. These are often presented as direct quotes, creating a puzzling effect: You want more, but the author, with only his Ailes bits and bobs, can’t give it.
Wemple offers a similar point.
And so Sherman’s biography — “The Loudest Voice in the Room” — lacks fresh, on-the-record quotations from the subject. On one level, that’s a disaster: Ailes is one of the great quote givers of his time. Where most media executives make like NFL coaches with their platitudes, Ailes speaks with the freshness and candor of a remarkable talent with supreme job security, sitting atop the No. 1 cable news network, which has a market value once estimated at $12 billion. Last year, for example, Ailes spoke with the New Republic about his network’s outreach efforts to Latinos. Along the way, he said this: “The president likes to divide people into groups. He’s too busy getting the middle class to hate rich people, blacks to hate whites. He is busy trying to get everybody to hate each other.”
Wemple does laud Sherman’s “exacting prose and protracted source notes” and that he “excels at compiling data establishing Ailes’s control freakishness and authoritarian nature.” Wolff calls Sherman’s reporting a “clip job” whose sources are mostly people out to settle a score with Ailes.