"I'm frightened right now," said a former Fox employee, noting the vast array of powerful connections Ailes maintains throughout the political and media worlds. "I've been told that if Ailes figures out I talked to you, he'll hunt me down and kill me."
Negotiating the ground rules for an off-the-record meeting, Ailes came on like an Edward G. Robinson character in a B movie. "Three people in the world hate me," he blustered. "You're not going to get to them, and everyone else is too scared.... Take your best shot at me, and I'll have the rest of my life to go after you."
Cooper says that Ailes discovered he was the source by gaining access to his phone records through Fox's "brain room."
Cooper claims that his talent agent, Richard Leibner, told him he had received a call from Ailes, who identified Cooper as a source, and insisted that Leibner drop him as a client -- or any client reels Leibner sent Fox would pile up in a corner and gather dust. Cooper continued:
"I made the connections. Ailes knew I had given Brock the interview. Certainly Brock didn't tell him. Of course. Fox News had gotten Brock's telephone records from the phone company, and my phone number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, News Corporation's New York headquarters, was what Roger called the Brain Room. Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie."
In a Rolling Stone piece, Tim Dickenson corroborates Cooper's account of a "black-ops" room deep within Fox HQ:
Befitting his siege mentality, Ailes also housed his newsroom in a bunker. Reporters and producers at Fox News work in a vast, windowless expanse below street level, a gloomy space lined with video-editing suites along one wall and an endless cube farm along the other. In a separate facility on the same subterranean floor, Ailes created an in-house research unit -- known at Fox News as the "brain room" -- that requires special security clearance to gain access. "The brain room is where Willie Horton comes from," says Cooper, who helped design its specs. "It's where the evil resides."
If that sounds paranoid, consider the man Ailes brought in to run the brain room: Scott Ehrlich, a top lieutenant from his political-consulting firm. Ehrlich -- referred to by some as "Baby Rush" -- had taken over the lead on Big Tobacco's campaign to crush health care reform when Ailes signed on with CNBC. According to documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Ehrlich gravitated to the dark side: In a strategy labeled "Underground Attack," he advised the tobacco giants to "hit hard" at key lawmakers "through their soft underbelly" by quietly influencing local media -- a tactic that would help the firms "stay under the radar of the national news media."