Add Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to the list of GOP pols that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes schmoozes with. According to records obtained by Gawker under the Mississippi Public Records Act, Barbour met with Ailes at News Corporation's New York headquarters for an hour on October 14, 2010—just three weeks before the midterm elections in which Barbour played a major role.
The meeting is of interest because it occurred two months after news broke that News Corporation had made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, which Barbour chaired at the time.
During the 2010 election cycle, as confidence in the Republican National Committee and its chairman Michael Steele waned among GOP regulars, Barbour and the RGA became de facto leaders of the Republican Party. Until recently, Barbour was widely considered a potential contender for the GOP nomination in 2012. Ailes has claimed that he was "totally surprised" when he learned that News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch had decided to give $1 million to the RGA. The subsequent meeting between the two men raises questions about how insulated Ailes—who used to pick Richard Nixon's ties and plotted to launch a White House funded GOP propaganda network with Watergate felon H.R. Haldeman—was from the decision to fund the RGA.
According to Barbour's schedule, a "Meeting With Roger Ailes" was slated from 1pm to 2pm at News Corporation's Sixth Avenue headquarters. Participants were listed as "GHB and Roger Ailes" ("GHB" presumably stands for Gov. Haley Barbour). The entry makes no mention of the meeting's agenda, but Barbour appeared on Sean Hannity's show that evening. A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to an email inquiring as to the nature of the meeting, and Haley's spokesperson did not respond to a phone message.
Barbour isn't the only Republican governor Ailes has taken an interest in. According to New York magazine, he invited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to his weekend home in Putnam County, NY, last summer and urged him join the presidential race. When Gawker requested any correspondence between Christie and Ailes under New Jersey's Open Records Act, Christie claimed that Ailes was a confidential adviser whose communications are protected by the state's executive privilege.
Barbour's office also released a letter he had written to Ailes in 2005 urging him to hire Bob Arnot, a former medical correspondent for NBC News who left the network unwillingly in 2003 after criticizing NBC's Iraq coverage as being overly negative. "[Arnot] is very conservative and not at all bashful about it," Barbour wrote in a letter addressed informally to "Roger." Barbour had met Arnot at a medical conference where Arnot spoke about "how much better the situation in Iraq really is than the mainstream news media reports.... I so rarely see a right-thinking television journalist that I wanted to bring him to your attention, in case FOX were looking for somebody." Ailes never hired him.
The records also include a schedule entry showing Barbour attended the 2008 Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner as Ailes' guest.
The documents turned over by Barbour do not constitute all communications between the two men. We requested all e-mail correspondence, written correspondence, schedule entries, and records of phone calls, and the governor's office replied that it would cost $12,411.21 to search through Barbour's e-mail archives and phone logs. Which, under Mississippi law, Gawker would have pay. So we restricted our request to the much more reasonably priced written correspondence and schedule entries.
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[Photos via AP]