Roger Ailes Wanted David Petraeus To Run For President

Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes tried to get David Petaeus to run for President:

Roger Ailes, the longtime Republican media guru, founder of Fox News and its current chairman, had some advice last year for then-Gen. David H. Petraeus.

So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the 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 T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations. She did so at the end of a 90-minute, unfiltered conversation with Petraeus that touched on the general’s future, his relationship with the media and his political aspirations — or lack thereof. The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Petraeus’s office in Kabul.

McFarland also said that Ailes — who had a decades-long career as a Republican political consultant, advising Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — 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.”


“It’s never going to happen,” Petraeus said. “You know it’s never going to happen. It really isn’t.

“My wife would divorce me,” he added. “And I love my wife. . . . We have a beautiful house.” Both Petraeus and McFarland laughed. “With his-and-hers bathrooms, believe it or not. I just want to live in it. I’ve never spent a night in it.”

Petraeus for President speculation was a common phenomenon for years, of course, and it continued despite the fact that the General seemed to make his disinterest unclear. This story is interesting because it reveals that this was a long, ongoing courting process by people like Ailes and Murdoch and, I would imagine, others. Of course, now that Petraeus’s personal life has become public, all of that speculation seems silly in retrospect.

Here’s the audio of McFarland’s conversation with Petraeus:

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    Reminder: these guys are considered journalists and get a front row seat at White House press briefings, despite the fact that they are nothing but aggressive partisan activists.

  2. legion says:

    This also strips another layer of lies away from the party line on the concept of “vetting a candidate”. When it’s Obama, they want proof of citizenship, college transcripts, etc. When it’s one of their guys, they just want to know what his price is.

  3. john personna says:

    So, what do we think about money, power, and the early rounds of the selection process?

    Perhaps the key here is not Petraeus but that Ailes was out there trying to be kingmaker.

    … are we still saying FOX is just a media outlet?

  4. Scott O says:

    If Ailes had sent Megyn Kelly he might have had more luck.

  5. It’s especially interesting since Murdoch had no problem saying that Petraeus was a liar that was covering up for Obama (a la Benghazi).

  6. MM says:

    @Timothy Watson: Once he didn’t accept the Fox news overtures, the bloom was off the rose.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Petraeus might have given Obama some stiff competition, though. And the climax of that political season . . . OK, OK, I’ll stop.

    In any event, to me the most interesting thing about this story is how poor Ailes’ political instincts appear to be. Petraeus is not Ike. Afghanistan and Iraq are not WWII. The notion that in this day and age a political neophyte could go directly from being a military ground commander all the way to the presidency — against a well-funded, skilled and ruthless incumbent, to boot — is absurd. And if nothing else Wesley Clark’s no show of an also ran campaign in ’04 should have given Ailes very serious pause.

    Even without the bimbo eruption Petraeus would have had a hard time (sorry) winning a major election for a single state, much less winning a national election.

  8. bill says:

    he could still run as a democrat, lying & cheating is not a personality flaw to them.