Fact Checking: 'The Loudest Voice' on 2015, Gretchen Carlson, Lachlan Murdoch, and Casey Close
On Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, we’re finally moving into 2015 and the endgame, specifically the Gretchen Carlson lawsuit, filed at the end of the episode. It’s what ultimately brings down Roger Ailes, although the “change in corporate structure” in 2015 making Lachlan and James Murdoch the CEOs of Fox News helps moves things along.
Unfortunately, it also takes until the last year of his life for him to finally see his comeuppance, and even after his ouster from Fox News, Ailes received $40 million in compensation from Fox News, which he used to buy a Palm Springs beach house, where he continued to live it up and advise Donald Trump.
In 2015, however, Ailes was recovering from prostate cancer, according to the Showtime series, though I cannot find any evidence online to suggest that Ailes actually had cancer (Rupert Murdoch did have prostate cancer). According to Michael Wolff, however, Ailes was wheelchair-bound in the last months of his life before his fatal fall. The series suggests that he was unable to fully assault at least one employee because he couldn’t get it up. I see no actual evidence of that, either, and in fact, the woman with whom he couldn’t get it up (played by Taylor Louderman) is not based on one character, but likely a composite.
The shake-up at Fox in 2015 didn’t really pose that much of an issue for Ailes — as suggested in the series, James and Lachlan Murdoch took control of the company, but Ailes still basically reported to Rupert, though James and Lachlan did have some say in matters (they were eventually instrumental in pushing Ailes out). For the record, James Lachlan is the more liberal-leaning brother and has not only distanced himself from Fox News but has spoken of using proceeds from the sale of Fox to create a liberal news network. Lachlan — who controls Fox News in the wake of the sale of the rest of Fox to Disney — is far more conservative, and while he’s not necessarily a fan of Trump, he is a fan of money, and there’s no evidence that he’s going to burn bridges with his Trump-loving personalities (in fact, Lachlan recently texted support for Tucker Carlson over his anti-immigrant rhetoric). (For the record, I think Lachlan will probably support the Trump-centric Fox News as long as it is profitable, but as soon as it isn’t, he’ll cut ties, which makes him a coward cynically profiting off of hate).
In either respect, James and Lachlan wresting some control from their father will matter in next week’s finale, when Fox News is faced with the decision to stick with or oust Ailes.
As for Gretchen Carlson — who was replaced by Elizabeth Hasselbeck on Fox & Friends, as depicted in The Loudest Voice — she was indeed fired without warning on the day that her contract expired. The timing between her firing (on June 23rd, 2016) and filing her lawsuit (July 6th) is compressed on the series.
Meanwhile, I can’t find any information on the role of Gretchen Carlson’s husband, sports agent Casey Close (Josh Charles), who is depicted as kind of a douche in the Showtime series. He shows some support for his wife on the show, but he’s also, like, “Well, at least he didn’t rape you.” According to Gretchen Carlson, however, her husband was always supportive.
It’d be nice to get some more perspective from the real Gretchen Carlson about how she’s depicted in the series. Unfortunately, she’s barred by her settlement agreement from discussing any of her involvement with Fox News. However, she did tell HuffPost that she’s pleased with the way Naomi Watts has portrayed her. “I’ve been so grateful to listen to her [speak about the show] because she’s really researched me, she’s read my books, she wanted to get the story right, and she has great empathy for the courage that it takes [to come forward].”
That sounds like tacit approval of the way that Watts has depicted her on the show. And as for the quid pro quo statement from her secret recordings that sealed the deal for her? That’s absolutely real. The exact quote from Carlson’s lawsuit is, “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 … and that sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.” Ailes also called her a “man-hater” and a “killer” who “tried to show up the boys” and often told her that he’s slept with three other Miss Americas but not her.
In the finale next week, we’ll see the end of Ailes’ reign, which might be more satisfying if his influence on the network wasn’t still so baked in.
Header Image Source: Showtime