After taking on Sarah Palin, HBO has another Republican hate-figure in its sights. The TV network is planning a movie on Fox News president Roger Ailes, based on a forthcoming unofficial and by all accounts unflattering biography.
In a turn that has already fizzed rightwing commentators, among the project's executive producers are Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski – presenters of the Morning Joe show on Fox's rival, liberal-leading network MSNBC.
A source confirmed to the Guardian that HBO has optioned the rights to make a film based on a book by New York Magazine writer Garbiel Sherman, which is due to be published in 2013.
Sherman, who has written extensively on Ailes and Fox News for New York Magazine, landed a book deal for an "inside account" of the news channel's rise in early 2011.
The book is yet to be finished but will be published by Random House next year.
Deadline's Nikki Finke, who broke the news of the HBO deal, said she was told by "a cagey HBO exec" that the channel would "wait to see what the script looks like and then decide whether to develop further".
It's commonplace for Time Warner's premier pay TV channel to sign up books before they're published and then turn them into TV movies. In this TV movie, a source tells me, "HBO prefers to take on Fox News through Ailes. The idea is that it should make Fox News look like a Mafia, and you get into this through Ailes, sidestepping Murdoch, not approaching the story head on."
In April the New York Daily News reported that Ailes had helped to "fast-track" a book on himself and Fox News by conservative writer Zev Chafets in a bid to pre-empt Sherman's account. The Daily News said Chafets had been granted extensive access to Fox News for a book due to be published this autumn, hinting at Ailes's discomfort with Sherman's upcoming account.
Sherman is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and a special correspondent for the New Republic. Last month he told Twitter followers that his local Ailes-run newspaper in upstate New York had cancelled his subscription because of the upcoming book.
This week I found out Roger Ailes's upstate newspaper, published by his wife, canceled my subscription b/c of my book on him and Fox News
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) June 1, 2012
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012
[News Corporation headquarters in New York. Alex E. Proimos / Flickr]
UPDATE: Nikki Finke, who broke the news, reports that HBO has now scuttled the project, informing her before the network even told people involved with the show. HBO Films President Len Amato emailed her that the "recent" decision was made because, "It had become clear to us before even receiving a script that due to our company's CNN affiliation the film could never be seen as objective."