The Fox News contributor who relayed a message from Roger Ailes, the network's chairman, to Gen. David Petraeus during a 2011 interview in Afghanistan urging him to run for president, says the details of her interview have been blown out of proportion by the network's detractors.
"A conversation that began in jest and that led to a passing comment at the end of my interview with General David Petraeus has turned into a firestorm of speculation and an attempt to denigrate Fox," Kathleen McFarland, a former national security and Pentagon aide, wrote in a post on FoxNews.com.
Near the end of their 90-minute conversation—a talk first reported by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post this week in a piece that included the audio recording—McFarland relayed the message from Ailes: If President Barack Obama offered Petraeus the job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he should take it. "If you're offered anything else," McFarland said, "don't take it. Resign in six months and run for president. OK? And I know you're not running for president. But at some point when you go to New York next, you may want to just chat with Roger. And Rupert Murdoch, for that matter."
"Well, Rupert's after me as well," replied Petraeus, who seemed to laugh off the idea.
McFarland wrote that Petraeus had already told her he wasn't going to run and that "he suggested that maybe Ailes could run this non-existent campaign. It was not a serious conversation plotting General Petraeus' political future; it was the kind of idle speculation that happens in every campaign season. That's why they call it the silly season."
"I realize conspiracy theorists have used this off-the-record interview to claim it was some plot to put Petraeus in the Oval Office," she continued. "Perhaps those same conspiracy theorists should ask themselves some different questions: Why was an audiotape created of what was supposed to be an off-the-record interview with just four people in the room, which General Petraeus himself said several times was off the record? I certainly saw no recording device, nor did I give my permission for the interview to be taped."
On Monday, Ailes confirmed to Woodward that he did give McFarland advice to deliver to Petraeus, but it was meant in jest. He then placed the blame for any alleged misunderstandings on McFarland.
"It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have," Ailes said. "I thought the Republican field needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate. It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. ... She was way out of line. ... It's someone's fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It's not my job."
Petraeus was appointed CIA director in September 2011. He resigned last month after admitting to an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.