Brian Stelter's new book about the "incestuous" relationship between Fox News and President Donald Trump contains at least one amusing anecdote.
In Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, the author recounts a curious encounter with an undercover Fox News intern in the early 2000s. At the time, Stelter was just another citizen journalist publishing media gossip on his TVNewser blog. His mostly negative reporting on Fox News drew the ire of Roger Ailes and the network's public relations department, which made him a target of corporate espionage.
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Here's how Stelter described the network's "sophomoric" attempt to keep tabs on him using the time-honored "honey trap" method:
At one point the Fox News PR department dispatched an intern to strike up a relationship with me. We went out a couple of times in New York City—we went to the late great Coffee Shop restaurant in Union Square, we rode the subway uptown, we even spent a late evening on her rooftop. There were moments when I thought these were dates—but her flirtatiousness was all part of the ruse.
Stelter found out "years later" that the undercover intern wasn't interested in romance, but had merely been "assigned to take copious notes and feed information back to her bosses." She was even summoned to Ailes's office the morning after one of their "dates" for interrogation.
The operation, which allegedly resulted in a photo of Stelter in beer-stained trousers being published on a rival blog under the headline, "TVBOOZER," was of dubious success. It does, however, serve to highlight the very real threats that journalists, particularly the male ones, must confront on a daily basis.
Hoax has received a lukewarm reception in the mainstream media since its publication earlier this month. The New York Times, for example, decried its "easy-to-digest" and "unannounced" arguments, as well as Stelter's reliance on "gratuitous gossip" and "name calling" to titillate his liberal audience.
Stelter was recently named to Fortune magazine's "40 Under 40" list, which describes him as a "34-year-old Maryland native."