Fox News' biggest critic decided to confront two of the network's biggest stars at a party recently, and what transpired was two very different examples of how to deal with critics face-to-face. Let's break them down.
The Hollywood Reporter's annual 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media party at the Four Seasons in Manhattan on Wednesday night.
On the list: Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, hosts Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Megyn Kelly.
Important context: Speaking to Gabriel Sherman, Ailes called Gawker a "pornographic website" at THR's annual bash in 2012, after a mole leaked information to the gossip blog the week before. "They hate me because I make money and I do it legitimately and they don't like my politics, and that's America," Ailes said. This year Ailes and Hannity skipped the proceedings altogether.
Gabriel Sherman: the reporter and author of the recently published The Loudest Voice in the Room, a book about Roger Ailes and how he formed Fox News, which we covered extensively. Known for devoting more time and effort to covering Fox News, Roger Ailes, and the many planets that orbit within the channel's universe than anyone else alive.
Bill O'Reilly: O'Reilly Factor host and the network's most dedicated on-air defender. Known for his aggressive debate style, short temper, and large physical frame.
Megyn Kelly: The Kelly File host, and Fox News' latest golden girl. Known for her friendship with Sheryl Sandberg, her strange views on Santa, and walking through the Fox News office on election night looking for The Real Results.
First, Sherman approached Bill O'Reilly, who is well-versed in defending his network from haters. Unfortunately, at least this time, O'Reilly lost his cool. Maybe it was the calm atmosphere — we've all been at a party when our mortal enemy walks in the door after a few too many, and lingered for a minute too long on the tantalizing thought of clocking him. The mature move is to keep your cool and walk away. Be polite, be cordial, but do not tell someone to "drop dead." That's rude. But, Sherman explains, O'Reilly did not take the classy way out:
I asked if he had read the book and what he thought. When he registered who I was, his eyes bulged out of their sockets.
"Drop dead, man!” he screamed.
"Really?" I said, taken aback.
My response triggered another eruption. He lunged forward at me. He stood there, all six foot five of him, staring me down. I thought he might take a swing at me.
Always act tough when your friend, in this case O'Reilly Factor producer Jesse Waters, is within your immediate vicinity. Really, if you outnumber your nemesis two-to-one, you can get away with all kinds of posturing. Especially if you're 6-foot-5. Thankfully for Sherman, O'Reilly calmed down and walked away before any fisticuffs could break out.
Later, Sherman found Kelly mingling among the crowd, husband on her arm, and approached the couple. The "vibe was cold," Sherman reports, but she was much more polite than her colleague. "I'm sorry, but I can't be seen talking to you," Kelly told Sherman. "It will get me in trouble." She was gracious and honest with a fierce critic who wanted a moment of her time. This, people, is how you should engage with your enemies. Kelly had one parting shot for Sherman before the two separated.
Before I turned to leave, there was one thing she wanted me to know. "Roger Ailes is a great man," she said.
I think, after writing 560 pages about the man, Sherman is well aware.
Note: Sherman contacted The Wire by phone Friday morning objecting to our use of the word "troll." "A troll is someone who harasses people online and hides like a little bitch, and that's not what I do," he said. "I went to the party to confront two important characters in my book." We thought his argument was a good one — trolls rarely ever come close to violence with their subjects! — so the post has been changed to reflect that.