Fox News boss Roger Ailes always ‘resented’ Rupert Murdoch’s sons, who eventually forced him out of the business amid a sexual abuse scandal, a new documentary has claimed.
Journalist Gabriel Sherman, whose book The Loudest Voice in the Room is the basis for Showtime’s eight-part series, starring Russell Crowe as the now deceased Ailes, makes the claim in tonight’s The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty on BBC2.
He said that Ailes and the Murdoch brothers never had an ‘ounce of respect for each other’, and that the late Fox boss begrudged ‘dilettante’ children James, then CEO of 21st Century Fox and Lachlan, who at the time was a senior executive, and accused them of profiting off his decisions.
However, Lachlan got revenge when he was the one to tell disgraced CEO Ailes he’d been ‘severed and executed’ from Fox News after sexual harassment allegations, by multiple women, detailed in The Loudest Voice – including Megyn Kelly and Laurie Luhn.
It comes after Donald Trump praised Roger Ailes for building a ‘miracle’ at Fox News in a new, glowing documentary, Man in the Arena, which was released on Amazon Prime on Friday and features favorable commentary from President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich and Ailes’ widow, Elizabeth.
It is narrated by Jon Voight and offers a far more complimentary view of Ailes than any of the films, series or documentaries that have previously been made about his life.
Speaking about Ailes’ frosty relationship with the Murdoch brothers, Gabriel Sherman said: ‘Ailes really resented Murdoch’s children, he thought they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, dilettante.
‘He was the one making the money and they were making bonehead decisions to spend his money.
‘There was just not an ounce of respect between Ailes and the Murdoch children.’
The writer also told how the executive would make remarks about James with his ‘cronies’ in his office.
He told: ‘One day Ailes was in his office with his cronies and he spotted James having a cigarette and looked at the camera and said “Tell me that mouth hasn’t sucked c***”.
‘That one moment, you saw everything Ailes thought about James on top of his own homophobia and that was the quintessential Ailes moment.’
New York Times journalist Ken Auletta said of the decision: ‘Irony of ironies, who gave him the news he was severed, executed, gone? Lachlan Murdoch was in that room’.
Rupert Murdoch succeeded him as chairman, and as interim CEO until the naming of a permanent replacement.
Another defining charateristic, was Ailes’ ‘Orwellian’ desire to constantly monitor his staff and even his family.
He was known for wiring his entire office with cameras and would ‘toggle through screens anywhere in the NewsCorp building’ as well as rigging his home with cameras to watch his wife Elizabeth and their young son.
‘Ailes’ office is on the second floor of the NewsCorp tower in midtown Manhattan,’ said Gabriel. ‘And he had the entire Fox News office wired with cameras.
‘On his desk he kept a monitor where he could toggle through screens of anywhere in the NewsCorp building.
‘What really freaked people out is he also wired his own home so he could be at work, click on his screen and watch his wife Beth and his young son whatever they were doing at the time, so it was really this Orwellian, Big Brother mindset he had.’
In the summer of 2016 Ailes was accused by Gretchen Carlson of sexual assault.
Carlson had joined Fox News in 2005 and was a weekend substitute host for Fox & Friends before moving into a weekday slot.
In 2013, she moved to the 2pm slot to host her own one-hour show, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.
She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes in July 2016, claiming she was fired for refusing his advances.
Carlson signed an NDA as part of her reported $20million out-of-court settlment with the network.
‘That lawsuit opened the flood gate of allegations and dozens of women came forwrd to detail years of sexual abuse, horrific examples of misbehaviour on Ailes’ part,’ told Gabriel.
The Vanity Fair writer went on to share the story of Laurie Luhnj, another ‘tragic example’ of a woman who claimed to be sexually harassed by Ailes.
Luhnj received more than $3million in a separation agreement from the network after claiming she had been sexually harassed and pressured into performing sexual acts with the former CEO.
Luhn, 56, spoke in a TV interview in 2016, in which she detailed how Ailes allegedly required her to be ready for afternoon hotel romps at a moment’s notice, and once made her engage in a sexual act with another woman while he took photographs.
She previously told Sherman that Ailes mostly demanded that she perform oral sex on him, and that he used the photographs and recordings he took of her to make sure she kept quiet about their relationship.
Ailes resigned from Fox News, receiving $40 million from 21st Century Fox, the then-parent company of and Fox News, in an exit agreement.
However, a new film on Ailes’ life entitled Man in the Arena, which was released last week, paints him as an underdog who was the driving force behind the election of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush.
Unlike film Bombshell and TV series The Loudest Voice, both of which were highly critical of Ailes, the new film seeks to glorify his life and career – from ditch-digging to TV to political consulting.
Narrated by Oscar-winning actor John Voight, who was a close friend of Ailes, and in Ailes’s own words, the film also tries to defend him against claims of sexual harrassment by 23 women which ultimately saw him forced from the network in 2016 – a year before he died.
Among those defending him are wife Elizabeth, who says: ‘I believe in forgiveness. And I think the world has forgotten how to be compassionate.’
Filmmaker Michael Barnes, an attorney who met Ailes in 2011 when he was thinking about leaving Fox to found his own network, said he was inspired to make the movie after feeling that previous portrayals were unfair to Ailes.
Bombshell, which won an Oscar for best hair and makeup, depicted Ailes as a misogynist who insisted the desks at Fox News be clear so that viewers could see the female anchor’s legs.
It also shows him harassing a fictional reporter named Kayla – played by Margot Robbie – by asking her to show him her underwear.
Miniseries The Loudest Voice also shows an Ailes who is dogged by harassment claims – which eventually bring him down and tarnish his legacy.
In real life, Ailes’s accusers were led by Gretchen Carlson, a long-serving Fox anchor who came forward to accuse him of persistently harassing her during her time at the network, after she was dropped in 2016.
Carlson claimed that Ailes told her they ‘should have had a sexual relationship’, and consistently commented on her legs and posterior.
When she pushed back against Ailes and others at the network who were allegedly harassing her, Carlson claims the network boss sabotaged her career by underpaying her, giving her less-serious assignments, and ultimately firing her.
Carlson – who settled with Fox for $20million – opened the floodgates for other women at Fox to come forward and accused Ailes of similar treatment.
Among them was Megyn Kelly, then the network’s rising star before defecting to NBC in 2018, and Laurie Luhn – who detailed what she called ’20 years of psychological torture’ at Alies’s hands, which included sadomasochistic sex sessions.
Facing a total of 23 accusers, Ailes was forced to step down from the network he founded and shaped over the course of two decades.
He died the following year after falling and hitting his head in the bathroom of his home. He suffered from hemophilia, a condition which stops the blood from clotting, and which caused complications after his fall.
The film plays out Ailes’ path from a ditch-digger to landing his first major job on TV on the The Mike Douglas Show to running Fox News as CEO in 1996.
The modest $200,000-budget movie includes interviews with a slew of Ailes’ political links including President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly and family members.
In the trailer Trump says: ‘What Roger Ailes did was create somewhat of a miracle, and that’s called Fox News.
‘Roger really opened up a world that nobody else was able to capture … I’m not sure that I ever would have been standing at this very powerful, important, even sacred spot: the Rose Garden in front of the Oval Office at the White House if it wasn’t for Roger,’ he added.