Not surprisingly, most of the headlines today regarding Gabriel Sherman’s lengthy piece about Roger Ailes are devoted to the anonymous contention that the Fox News Channel CEO thinks Sarah Palin is “stupid.” But that really buries the lead.

The most remarkable part is the indication that Ailes is actually out actively soliciting candidates to run for the Republican presidential nomination, as he allegedly did with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Here’s the key passage:

For all his programming genius, he was more interested in a real narrative than a television narrative—he wanted to elect a president. All he had to do was watch Fox’s May 5 debate in South Carolina to see what a mess the field was—a mess partly created by the loudmouths he’d given airtime to and a tea party he’d nurtured. And, not incidentally, a strong Republican candidate would be good for his business, too. A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he’d invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes’s calls to run.

If that’s even 80 percent true — and Sherman’s reporting, part of a book on which he’s working, sounds authoritative — it pretty much puts the lie to any assertion FNC might make about the channel not being essentially an adjunct of the Republican Party. This won’t come as a surprise to many people, naturally, but it blows up the “fair and balanced” claim in an undeniable way.

Fox, naturally, fired back about the Palin comment in its PR department’s inimitable fashion. But I’ll be interested to see once the dust settles whether the channel will feel compelled to issue similar denials about some of the other elements in the piece, including the tidbit that Ailes is out recruiting candidates for the GOP nomination.