By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jun 07, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Fox News is the clear leader in the cable television news race, far outpacing MSNBC and CNN.

Fox News also is the clear leader in legs and short skirts and it isn’t getting there by accident. Based on a biography of Roger Ailes, who founded and runs the network, the orders apparently come down from the top: short skirts, lots of leg!

Is the Fox dominance in the ratings a coincidence? I report. You decide.

The other day I was channel surfing and came upon a program called "Outnumbered" on the Fox News channel. The gig for the show is that four women sit on couches while one guy sits in the middle and they gab about the news or popular culture or almost anything that comes to mind.

Picture this: four really good looking women, all in different colored simple dresses. All of them with their legs crossed and high heels dangling. And showing lots of leg. I mean lots of leg. In most cases we are talking mid-thigh.

Now I wasn’t particularly bothered. I am proud to say I’m a leg man. Give me a well-turned ankle and I’m intrigued. Always have been.

The next morning I was watching "Good Morning America" and they have a new set, with a glass table. There was anchor Lara Spencer, sitting next to Robin Roberts with her legs crossed, a short skirt and showing lots of thigh through the top of that glass table. Robin was wearing pants.

I began to pay attention. Martha MacCallum on Fox, Kate Bolduan on CNN, Robin Meade on HLN. Katie Couric, for God’s sake. Everywhere I turned, it was like everybody is trying to keep up with Fox, while Fox seems determined to maintain its lead.

Gabriel Sherman recently wrote a very respected biography of Ailes and here are several excerpts on the subject:

"The topic of the dress code and makeup of Fox News' female personalities has long been the subject of scrutiny among writers. Fox News host Gretchen Carlson recently admitted that "pants were not allowed on Fox & Friends."

An anecdote of Ailes regarding former Fox News reporter Kiran Chetry:

"Anchor Bob Sellers remembered Ailes once calling the control booth. 'I was doing the weekend show with Kiran Chetry. He called up and said, 'Move that damn laptop, I can't see her legs!'"

Sherman reports that Ailes "had admiration for [former Fox host Catherine Crier's] legs" and was livid when she appeared on-air wearing pants:

"He had admiration for her legs," a senior executive said. In one meeting, Ailes barked, "Tell Catherine I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits."

The strategy seems to be working for the ultra-conservative Fox. The network has long been a mouthpiece for the Republican party and the Ailes-fueled right-wing fascination with exposed shapely legs may also help explain how we got Sarah Palin, who has nice legs, and not much else.

MSNBC is the mouthpiece for the Democratic party, but all of their female hosts sit behind a desk. Where the heck are the consultants on this one?

I understand the mantra that sex sells. And it clearly sells for Fox. I don’t think we have reached NSFW yet, but it may well come once we start to see the legs of Wolf Blitzer or Bill O’Reilly.

Let’s hope that day is a long, long way away.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.