Fact Checking: 'The Loudest Voice' on 2012, Gretchen Carlson, Gabe Sherman, and Brian Lewis
This week’s episode of Showtime’s The Loudest Voice takes place in 2012 and 2013 (before and after Obama’s re-election), but it laid the groundwork for Ailes’ eventual ouster from Fox News. The Laurie Luhn allegations against Ailes — detailed in previous episodes — were obviously reprehensible, but it, unfortunately, took a lawsuit from recognizable on-air talent, in Gretchen Carlson, and the reporting of Gabe Sherman at New York magazine to finally drive Ailes out.
This week’s episode triangulated around Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment allegations (detailed in her lawsuit against Ailes and Fox News), Ailes’ attempt to smear the work of New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman, and the firing of Ailes’ media relations fixer, Brian Lewis, which created for Sherman another source for his reporting.
The Gretchen Carlson scenes are accurate, if not in exact detail, at least in spirit. He did sexually harass her on several occasions (and so did Steve Doocy, who is still a co-host on Fox & Friends), and when Carlson complained, she was demoted, although Ailes attempted to frame her demotion as a promotion. It began with a co-hosting gig on The View, which Ailes saw as a betrayal. Because sexual harassment is ultimately all about power and control, Ailes attempted to control Carlson by demanding a sexual relationship and when Carlson rebuffed his advances, Ailes tried to control her in another way: By removing her from Fox & Friends and giving her her own show in the 2 p.m. graveyard (ironically, Carlson’s replacement on Fox & Friends was Elizabeth Hasselback, who left The View to take the position).
Carlson stuck it out, and in fact, improved the ratings for that time slot, but it did not stop Ailes from demeaning and harassing her. Her sports agent husband (played by Josh Charles) basically told Carlson to let Ailes have the win and go along to get along. Carlson wasn’t having it; in fact, she began secretly recording Ailes with her iPhone. In the show, Carlson recorded Ailes saying that her “ass was like a magnet” for his hand. I don’t know if he actually said that, but Carlson did record Ailes saying to her, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”
— Meanwhile, Gabe Sherman at New York magazine was attempting to write a biography about Roger Ailes and Fox News. Ailes didn’t want Sherman to write a book about him, and — as the show depicts — attempted to smear Sherman online. From NYMag’s Gabe Sherman:
I was also the target of an operation, a source told me: In 2012, while I was researching a biography of Ailes, Fox operatives set up webpages to attack my reputation, and Fox funds paid for Google search ads against my name that linked to the sites. One source also said private investigators employed by Fox contributor Bo Dietl were instructed to follow me and my wife.
And yes, Ailes did endeavor to smear Sherman’s reporting by suggesting that he was backed by George Soros.
— In the show, media relations VP Brian Lewis found out that Ailes was smearing Sherman and thought that Ailes had crossed the line. When Lewis confronted Ailes, Ailes went ballistic and fired Lewis. In reality, after his firing, Fox News suggested it was for “financial irregularities” and “multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract.” As it turns out, he was fired for cooperating with Gabe Sherman. (The $8 million settlement was reported by Gawker).
In either respect, it was Carlson’s allegations and Sherman’s reporting that opened the floodgates and led to Ailes’ termination in 2016, in addition to a $20 million settlement with Carlson.
— Meanwhile, as for the letter that Laurie Luhn sent Roger Ailes, which was read by others at Fox News and led to a $3 million settlement with Luhn (but not Ailes’ termination, for some reason), that’s true, too. In fact, Sherman shared the contents of that letter online three years ago.
— As for the editor of Ailes’ hometown newspaper, Joe Lindsley, he did flee, as he says in a promotional video for his as-yet-unpublished book:
It gets weird. That break-in that Lindsley asked personally to stop? Totally true. But also, Ailes — who was very close with Lindsley — had also apparently expected him to step in as Beth Ailes’ husband after Roger’s death. From Talking Points Memo:
The spying followed years of intense weirdness between the editor and the Aileses, who once asked him to personally stop a break-in at their home and who implied that, after Roger’s death, he’d be expected to replace him in their marriage.
Header Image Source: Showtime
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