Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus can’t seem to wriggle out of the media’s spotlight as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward reported Monday that Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, tried to convince Petraeus to run for president.
Fox News reportedly sent Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst, to Afghanistan to interview Petraeus in 2011 when he still commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan. During their 90-minute interview, McFarland told Petraeus that Ailes felt Petraeus should turn down any position other than a nomination to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff and run for president.
Petraeus turned down the offer and ended up taking over as the CIA director after Obama nominated him. Of course, a year late he resigned after he admitted to carrying on an extra-marital affair with his biographer.
Back in 2011, McFarland reportedly told Petraeus that Ailes had offered to quit his job as the chairman of Fox News and run Petraeus’ campaign. Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., also offered to “bank roll” the campaign, Woodward wrote.
Washington Post obtained a recording of the interview between MacFarland and Petraeus. MacFarland and Petraeus did not provide comment for the article. Ailes denied much of the reporting saying he didn’t want to leave his post at Fox News and the suggestion to Petraeus was made only tongue-in-cheek.
Whether the suggestion to run for president was sincere or not, Woodward’s report provides yet another window into the tight relationship Petraeus maintained with the media. Plenty of rumors swirled about Petraeus’ potential presidential candidacy, many of them in jest, as some defense reporters joked that Obama nominated Petraeus to head the CIA only to eliminate a potential opponent on the campaign trail.
Fox News is seen in many circles as merely an arm for the Republican Party. The hissy fit Karl Rove was allowed to throw on Fox News airwaves when Fox News declared the presidential election for Obama further supported those suggestions. However, the details of the conversation between MacFarland and Petraeus questions the objectiveness of any Fox News report that had to do with the four-star general. (Full disclosure: Military.com holds a content sharing agreement with Fox News.)
It would be false to say Fox News was the only media outlet with such a close relationship with Petraeus. In fact, many defense reporters have since admitted to falling under Petraeus’ charms. But for the head of a media outlet to go as far as to suggest to a general that he should run for president is disturbing, not to mention he supposedly offered to run the campaign.
These reports continue to call into question the many swooning Petraeus profiles as well as the subsequent reporting on the military operations he led in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not to say the progress Petraeus oversaw in Iraq should be ignored, but the more details that come out about the inappropriate relationships he had with the media means more questions should be asked.