Fact Checking: 'The Loudest Voice' on Roger Ailes' Firing, Megyn Kelly, and Judy Laterza
This week, Showtime aired the series finale of The Loudest Voice, which tracked Roger Ailes’ rise at Fox News until his ultimate dismissal, a firing that wasn’t as satisfying as some might have hoped. In fact, the only character on the series who seemed to get a lot of satisfaction out of it was Rupert Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, who had quit back in 2005 because of Roger Ailes, only to return in time to see Ailes’ pushed out amid a series of horrific sexual assault allegations from numerous employees. Part of why that was unsatisfying is the fact that Lachlan — who describes himself as “economically conservative and more liberal on social policy” — seemed to revel in his ability to exact revenge on Ailes, but he didn’t give a damn about honoring the many, many victims of Ailes.
As depicted in The Loudest Voice, the firing of Ailes was designed less to punish him and more as a way to protect Fox News from an inevitable class-action lawsuit. In fact, 21st Century Fox quietly resolved all of its sexual harassment problems for about $50 million (company-wide), including the $20 million it gave to Gretchen Carlson. Meanwhile, the shareholders ended up getting $90 million in a settlement basically over mismanagement of the sexual harassment claims. Shareholders got more money than the women who were subjected to repeated sexual assault. How galling is that?
All of the female employees — including Gretchen Carlson — are still barred from talking about anything pertaining to Fox News.
In any respect, the episode played out similarly to the way the news headlines portrayed it back in 2016: After Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit was filed, Ailes not only tried to smear her but also pressured a lot of Fox News employees (and Donald Trump) to support him — in fact, Kimberly Guilfoyle (Don Jr.s’ current girlfriend) was probably the most vocal female Ailes defender at the time (Beth Ailes pushed her to be front and center in Ailes’ defense)>
That strategy might have worked had Lachlan Murdoch not insisted on an independent investigation of Fox News. Employees were initially reluctant to speak — because Ailes had cameras inside of all of Fox News’ offices — but once the independent investigation moved to the law firm of Paul, Weiss, numerous women came forward with their allegations. In fact, 24 women reportedly spoke to the investigation law firm, and several — not just Carlson — had voice recordings. One of those women was Megyn Kelly, who told investigators that Ailes subjected her to “unwanted sexual advances” early in her career.
Here are a few other fact-checking notes about the finale:
The episode showed that Roger’s wife, Beth, stuck by his side the entire time, except right after he was fired when she can be seen breaking down privately in her bathroom. In reality, Beth Ailes was fiercely loyal, although Gabriel Sherman — whose reporting is the basis for much the series — did report back in 2014 that she had taken the allegations hard and that she had contemplated divorce (according to family friends). In fact, they were living separately when Ailes died. However, as depicted in the series, Beth Ailes was furious with Megyn Kelly and had wanted to release “racy” photos of her from a GQ magazine spread in an effort to discredit her. Meanwhile, Zachary Ailes — Roger’s son — still vehemently defends his father to this day.
As we wrote last week, Gretchen Carlson is barred by an NDA from discussing the veracity of The Loudest Voice, but she did say that her husband, Casey Close, was entirely supportive (the series depicts Josh Charles’ character as a little wishy-washy).
Judy Laterza, Ailes’ quiet, fiercely loyal assistant, remains something of a mystery. According to Sherman’s reporting, she did help Ailes recruit women to sexually assault, and she did receive a $2 million a year salary as an assistant. In fact, she reportedly put down fake names for the women who entered Ailes’ office in order to protect him. In Ailes’ will, he reportedly also left $30,000 to Laterza, which I guess was a sort of thank you for lining up all those sexual harassment victims for him. Ugh. Laterza has completely disappeared from the public since being pushed out of Fox News after Ailes’ firing.
It doesn’t appear that Ailes actually tried to commandeer the network, cut into programming, and defend himself on camera. However, he was locked out of the Fox News building the day after he was fired. The meeting Ailes had with Rupert, Lachlan, and James, etc., depicted in the episode was actually a lunch after he was fired, designed to keep up appearances and keep the peace, so to speak. It was awkward for everyone.
Ailes died ten months after he was fired. He fell and suffered a subdural hematoma, which was exacerbated by his hemophilia. I’d like to say that I wish he would’ve lived a disgraced life of obscurity for another 20 years, but Ailes was living it up in a Palm Springs home he bought with his $40 million severance package and consulting with Trump, so death could not come soon enough.
Sadly, justice was never really exacted where it concerns Roger Ailes.
Header Image Source: Showtime
Recap: ‘Succession’ Starts Season 2 With ‘The Summer Palace’ and the Pettiness and Backstabbing We’ve Come to Expect From the Roys
Review: Season 2 of ‘The Terror’ is a Devastating Ghost Story About the Horrors of Internment and the Weight of Cultural Expectations