WASHINGTON — Roger Ailes, the longtime Republican media guru, founder of Fox News and its current chairman, had some advice last year for then-Gen. David Petraeus.
So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Barack Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.
The Fox News chairman's message was delivered to Petraeus by Kathleen McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations. The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Kabul.
McFarland also said that Ailes might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would "bankroll" the campaign.
"Rupert's after me as well," Petraeus told McFarland.
McFarland said she had spoken "directly" to the Fox News chairman and the "advice to you from Roger Ailes is … He says that if you're offered JCS chairman, take it. If you're offered anything else, don't take it; resign in six months and run for president."
Petraeus was confirmed and sworn in as CIA director on Sept. 6, 2011. He resigned a year later, on Nov. 9, after the disclosure of an extramarital affair with his biographer.
In a telephone interview Monday, Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. "It was more of a joke," he said. "I thought the Republican field in the primaries needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate."