When Roger and Beth Ailes wanted to rework two local papers in Putnam County, NY, conservative editor Joe Lindsley was the perfect person for the job.
So Lindsley, played by Emory Cohen, enters Showtime drama The Loudest Voice as Fox founder Roger Ailes' protege. Living on the Ailes' compound in Cold Spring, NY, Lindsley became enmeshed with the powerful media family both personally and professionally.
Lindsley was closer to the Ailes family than any other character on The Loudest Voice. A lot has changed since then. Now, Lindsley is one of the Ailes' most vocal detractors. His memoir, Fake News / True Story, describes his traumatic journey into Ailes' inner sanctum. Until now, The Loudest Voice has focused on Ailes' abuses of power with women – but Lindsley was also affected by Ailes.
"My name is J.P. Lindsley. Deep into the world of News Corp, I began to witness the perversion of Mr. Murdoch's empire. Roger Ailes and I argued ferociously about the nature of truth. 'There are no facts,' he said. 'I will destroy your truths with my narratives.' I knew I had to reject that world. So one day, I fled," Lindsley recounts in this promotional video for his memoir.
The gig as editor-in-chief of both the Putnam County News & Recorder and the Putnam County Courier was unusual from the start. Lindsley started the job immediately, before he could find a home in Cold Spring. For months, he lived in the Ailes' pool house in their Putnam County estate.
Though for the 20something Lindsley, who grew up dreaming of running Fox News, it was an ideal opportunity. "This is incredible. I have arrived," he recalled to the podcast Reckonings. Lindsley was Ailes' stand-in at the newspapers, radically transforming them into conservative outposts. This moved angered many residents in the local, liberal-leaning towns. Many of the Putnam County newspapers' writers resigned and set up a rival online newspaper called Philipstown.info.
Running the newspapers was just a sliver of Lindsley's job. He was positioned as Ailes' apprentice. Beth told Lindsley he was "being groomed for better things," and that he should "spend as much time with Roger as possible." Lindsley attended boardroom meetings at Fox, got access to the top-secret Danish pastry storeroom in the News Corp building, went on vacation with the Ailes family, and dated Fox employees picked out by Roger. In no time, Ailes was calling him Ailes Jr.
In a 2011 New Yorker article covering the Ailes' controversial purchase of the newspaper, John Boyer described Lindsley as "a smart, combative, burly man with a booming voice, and seemed a younger version of Ailes, bringing to his new job an intense competitiveness, an aggressive news instinct, and a willingness to provoke."
But Ailes' rhetoric became more and more paranoid. He believed that Obama was taking over the U.S., and that the country was on the brink of civil war. In anticipation, he built a bunker in his Putnam County compound. Ailes wanted to use the Putnam County newspaper as a weapon and "use headlines as weapons." Lindsley opposed this use of journalism.
But since Lindsley was constantly monitored by the Ailes', he struggled to give voice to his doubts. It was only when Lindsley's sister came to work at the paper for a summer internship and criticized Ailes' lifestyle that he started to question the whole enterprise. The trouble began after Lindsley gave an interview at the New Yorker that Ailes didn't like. Lindsley challenged Ailes; with that, their previously friendship environment turned toxic.
In his novelistic memoir, Lindsley recalls an interaction between Ailes and his stand-in character, Jack Renard. Renard, who is deeply Catholic like Lindsley, is in church praying. “Well, maybe God’s not home,” Ailes tells Renard over the phone. “He’s not home today. I heard from Him. He’s busy. He doesn’t have time for you.”
Eventually, Lindsley couldn't take it anymore. In 2011, after two years with the Ailes, Lindsley resigned from his position. "You can't treat people like garbage. You can't just crap over people," Lindsley told Ailes in their final interaction.
Lindsley drove away in his Jeep. He was "free" from the Ailes family — but he unleashed another difficult chapter in his life. He was blackmailed; he was trailed by security guards throughout the Hudson Valley. In the months following his dramatic departure, he left journalism and managed a Celtic rock band in Ireland. Lindsley also rehabilitated his perspective after months immersed in Ailes' conspiracies. As a personal challenge, he banned himself from holding strong opinions on anything. (Lindsley is still a conservative, but he doesn't watch Fox News.)
In the book, Lindsley describes the loneliness and isolation of those years with the Ailes, and his hard journey toward the truth. He wanted Ailes to read the book — but that never happened. He finished the final draft of the book the night before Ailes died at the age of 77.
Currently, Fake News, True Story is available in e-book form. The book will go into print if enough copies are pre-ordered.