Rupert Murdoch wasn't in attendance at Fox News' 15th anniversary party at Chelsea Piers in New York on Wednesday night for Roger Ailes' speech.
"He wanted to come, but he was pre-empted by a high level U.N. thing," Ailes told 700-plus staffers--most of them female--at the employee-only fête. Ailes said Murdoch told him he might stop by after tending to his world-leader obligations.
"I begged him not to because I've seen you drink," Ailes joked. "And, frankly, it's a nightmare."
No matter. Ailes, the founder and chief executive of Fox News was this party's real star. Not Bill O'Reilly, who was also in attendance, but didn't speak.
"Think about it," Steve Doocy, the "Fox & Friends" co-host who introduced Ailes, said. "Where would you be if Roger Ailes had not started the Fox News Channel?"
A short video montage spanning Fox News' 15-year existence--the last nine as the top-rated channel on cable news--played as staffers indulged in the top-shelf open bar. (Earlier this week, Fox launched a live, six-city cross-country tour to commemorate the anniversary.)
Ailes, surrounded by on-air talent, family and genuinely adoring employees, spoke for about 15 minutes. He began by reading a 1996 USA Today piece about the launch of Fox News, which was then described as "a distant third in the news wars."
"Everyone thought we would fail," Ailes said. "I knew if we hired the right journalists, we could revolutionize television. And we've done it."
He called Fox News' current collection of talking heads "the strongest lineup in cable history" while dissing the revolving doors at his cable competitors. "They have collectively changed it 63 times," Ailes said of the lineup at CNN and MSNBC. "It's sad."
He offered staffers many thanks and plenty of Lombardi-like inspirational cliches. (A small sampling: "Never stop trying to achieve excellence"; "If you believe you will win, you can win"; "Only teams go to the Super Bowl"; and "If you believe you're a victim, you will be a victim.")
Murdoch aside, the biggest star not in attendance was Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, who continues to tease the electorate, insisting she has not made up her mind on a 2012 presidential run. And if she does run? "She's out," Ailes told The Cutline after his speech. "Done, immediately."
He added: "We'd cover [her] like we would any other candidate--fair and balanced."
Ailes was asked then for his assessment of President Obama's first term, but he declined. "I don't want to get into politics," Ailes said, pausing. "I don't see our success tied to politics."
"Remember," Ailes told the crowd at the end of his speech. "Losing is highly overrated as a learning experience. Never give up, stay fair and balanced and never sell out--for the good of America."