Matt Lauer’s Co-Host Touts ‘Damning Portrayal’ of Roger Ailes

On Monday’s Today show, co-host Savannah Guthrie talked to the cast of Showtime’s The Loudest Voice about their “damning portrayal” of late Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the new series. Guthrie’s disgraced former co-host Matt Lauer and NBC’s questionable handling of his years of alleged sexual harassment wasn’t mentioned during the lengthy segment.

“The late Roger Ailes was a media titan, the founder of Fox News. He turned it into a cable powerhouse and arguably gave us the modern Republican Party as we know it,” Guthrie proclaimed as she introduced the guests, touting how the actors “bring Ailes’ remarkable and disturbing story out of the shadows.”

 

 

Speaking of keeping a story “in the shadows,” when the Today show marked the 25th anniversary of Studio 1A last week, Lauer’s entire two-decade tenure on the broadcast was completely erased from the retrospective.

Turning to actor Russell Crowe on Monday, who plays Ailes in The Loudest Voice, Guthrie observed: “Ailes was this larger than life character. I would say this is a pretty damning portrayal.” She then asked: “What did you learn about him, what did you come to know or think or believe about Ailes, having done this research and gotten into this character?”

Crowe highlighted that Ailes had an entertainment background:

What was surprising and fun for me was to find out that when he was in high school and when he was in college, he was obsessed with Broadway musicals. And between the Nixon campaign, which he worked on, and before he worked on Reagan’s campaign, he was a Broadway producer. And his one minor success was Hot L. Baltimore. You know, so that sort of feeds a lot of information into you, the things that he was doing with Fox and the way he was changing graphics and grabbing people’s attention had a very theatrical perspective. So that was interesting to learn.

The actor pointed out the same thing when he sat down for a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS’s The Late Show. Disgraced former CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose, fired CBS president Les Moonves, and fired 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager, all accused of sexual harassment, never came up in that appearance.

Back on Monday’s Today show, Guthrie asked actress Naomi Watts: “Naomi, you played Gretchen Carlson, who of course was an anchor and correspondent for Fox News and ultimately led to his downfall in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. What attracted you to this role?”

Watts responded:

Well, I mean, a woman to be able to take down a man at that level of power, that’s pretty impressive. Took a lot of courage....And she was very good at her job. She was at the peak of her career. And to be undervalued and pushed aside because of the way the Fox, you know, system works, women were told to stay in their place, to fall in line, and not push back. And she wouldn’t settle for that.

Considering Lauer spent years allegedly using a button under his desk to lock women in his office for the purpose of harassing them, perhaps there should be some discussion of the “system” at NBC News.

While the accused behavior of Ailes certainly makes the late television executive a legitimate target for criticism, one wonders when Hollywood will be making a similar series about Lauer’s time at NBC or the parade of similar scandals at CBS.

Here is a transcript of Guthrie’s June 24 exchange with the Loudest Voice cast:

8:38 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The late Roger Ailes was a media titan, the founder of Fox News. He turned it into a cable powerhouse and arguably gave us the modern Republican Party as we know it. Yet to many, he was just the man behind the curtain. But now in the new Showtime series, The Loudest Voice, Russell Crowe, Sienna Miller, Seth MacFarlane, and Naomi Watts bring Ailes’ remarkable and disturbing story out of the shadows.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Ailes was this larger than life character. I would say this is a pretty damning portrayal. What did you learn about him, what did you come to know or think or believe about Ailes, having done this research and gotten into this character?

RUSSELL CROWE: Well, you know Roger through the frame of Fox News. And if you know more than that, you probably know he was an adviser to three presidents. What was surprising and fun for me was to find out that when he was in high school and when he was in college, he was obsessed with Broadway musicals. And between the Nixon campaign, which he worked on, and before he worked on Reagan’s campaign, he was a Broadway producer. And his one minor success was Hot L. Baltimore. You know, so that sort of feeds a lot of information into you, the things that he was doing with Fox and the way he was changing graphics and grabbing people’s attention had a very theatrical perspective. So that was interesting to learn.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, Naomi, you played Gretchen Carlson, who of course was an anchor and correspondent for Fox News and ultimately led to his downfall in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. What attracted you to this role?

NAOMI WATTS: Well, I mean, a woman to be able to take down a man at that level of power, that’s pretty impressive. Took a lot of courage. And like Russell, I saw a lot available on the internet, her books to read, there’s plenty available. But there was a certain thing that just gave me a whole lot of insight, and that was when she was playing the violin with such ferocity and discipline and focus and in a way that told you the story that she had probably made certain sacrifices in her life to be so successful at that. And she was very good at her job. She was at the peak of her career. And to be undervalued and pushed aside because of the way the Fox, you know, system works, women were told to stay in their place, to fall in line, and not push back. And she wouldn’t settle for that.

GUTHRIE: Did any of you talk – obviously not you, Roger Ailes has passed on – but did any of you talk to the real people that you were portraying or did you want to? Seth, you portrayed Brian Lewis, who was – oh, maybe it’s off the record.

CROWE: We can’t reveal our sources.

GUTHRIE: Yes, yes.

SETH MACFARLANE: You know, the biggest source of research for me was Gabe Sherman’s book.

GUTHRIE: Yes.

MACFARLANE: Which was a pretty impressive tome, and you know, I made sure to read it front to back before I even started. And it was an education, for sure.

GUTHRIE: You played Brian Lewis, who was kind of Ailes’ right-hand guy for key periods of time. So tell me about this role, because of course we’re used to seeing you in comedy or hearing you, more to the point. Why did you – why were you into this?

MACFARLANE: You know, the opportunity to do something without a British accent was too good to pass up. Yeah, it was fascinating. I mean it’s – you know, there’s obviously the weirdness, the fact that I have worked for Fox for a number of years. Different branch, obviously. But it’s an amazing story. And it’s a very relevant story for obvious reasons. And it’s different than anything I have done in the past, so it felt like a –

(...)

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