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Make That 'Balanced and Fair'

Flash: The phrase should be "balanced and fair," not "fair and balanced."

At least that's according to the guy who wrote the rulebook—or in this case the mission statement—Fox News Channel Chairman and architect Roger Ailes.

In accepting The Media Institute's Freedom of Speech Award at a dinner in Washington Wednesday night, Ailes read from the mission statement for the channel he wrote nine years ago: "Fox News Channel is commited to providing viewers with more factual information in a balanced and fair presentation....Our motto is "we report, you decide..."

Either way, Ailes has built the channel into a cable news power by leading, by making complex things simple, and by getting 85 CNBC staffers to exit with him and help build the channel, according to his friend, Alan Frank, Post-Newsweek Stations President, who introduced Ailes.

"A freedom of speech award for [Roger] Ailes, this is a dangerous moment," said Ailes. It went on to be a moment to take shots at Judith Miller and CBS before defending speech and America.

Ailes called himself a big fan of freedom of speech, but added that "some think I ought to be the one exception."

"I was told I was coming to get the "Protecting Your Confidential Sources At Any Cost Even If They Don't Want To Be Protected Judith Miller Award," said Ailes, guaranteeing himself a laugh at the expense of Miller and the ongoing questions about how much her source wanted to be protected (she stayed in jail 85 days not to give up the name).

Ailes said he had gotten a congratulatory telegram from the news staff at CBS. "My staff is now examining it. They think it's a fake."

Ailes says he believes in "appropriate" speech, but has "gone so far as to defend Howard Stern."

But he has gone even farther, he said, "defending employees for saying wild things like "God Bless America, the double whammy of political incorrectness."

Ailes didn't stop at speech, saying he defended the "over 20" basic rights enumerated, all essential to liberty," warning against taking liberties with those rights by ex post facto overinterpretation.

He focused on the freedom of religion, the free exercise thereof he said should be protected at all times.

"They can't make you have a religion, and they can't stop you from practicing it anywhere. That just doesn't seem right," he said sarcastically. "It must mean something that's not in there."

His point: The framers of the Constitution meant what they wrote.

"Freedom of the press is the lifeblood of journalism," he concluded."Most journalists are fine people," he said. "Hundreds are locked up or killed every year for trying to do their jobs."

Ailes was unapologetic in his praise for America, with all its problems, saying he sometimes had to remind his collegues that, "while freedom of the press is the central pillar of democracy, freedom of the press did not invent democracy. It is democracy that is the structure, the support and the cradle of freedom of the press. So, at Fox we investigate anything, finding the truth we'll report it, but we don't get up every morning assuming our country is guilty."

"Because as individuals we demand the right to be innocent until proven guilty, we allow that same privilege to the country."