In the finale of Showtime's seven-part miniseries The Loudest Voice, the moment audiences have been waiting for all season finally happens. Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson's (Naomi Watts) sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes (Russell Crowe), filed in July 2016, incites an avalanche of similar allegations. Within a month, Ailes is toppled from his perch of Chairman and CEO of Fox News.
This is not new news. But The Loudest Voice finale surprises in the way it draws a direct line between Ailes, who spearheaded Fox News' conservative agenda, and Donald Trump, the future president of the United States. "Without Ailes, there is definitely no Trump," Alex Metcalf, the series' creator, told The Hollywood Reporter. The final episode of The Loudest Voice, "2016," unpacks just how deep Trump and Ailes' connection really was.
Until the finale, Trump only appears in The Loudest Voice as a figure on the TV, or as an unheard presence on the other side of a phone conversation with Ailes. But in The Loudest Voice's final episode, he's practically a character. His decades-long relationship with Ailes becomes a plot point.
During the time of Ailes' professional downfall in July 2016, Trump was running for the Republican candidacy. Drawing on his years as a Republican strategist, Ailes personally gives Trump campaign guidance. According to The Loudest Voice, Ailes recommends Trump hire actors to cheer as he goes up Trump Tower's escalator in his now-famous candidacy announcement.
So when Ailes is accused of sexual harassment, Trump comes to his advisor's defense. The following comment, originally given to Mark Halperin of Showtime's The Circus, plays onscreen. “I think it’s so sad. He’s such a great guy. Roger is – I mean, what he’s done on television, is in the history of television, he’s gotta be placed in the top three, or four or five, and that includes the major founders," Trump said.
This wasn't the first time Trump defended a man amid sexual misconduct allegations — and it wouldn't be the last. In November 2017, Trump defended Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for the Alabama Senate seat, after multiple women accused him of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s. Then, during heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in September 2018, Trump lavished praise on Judge Brett Kavanaugh and publicly called out Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school, on Twitter and at rallies.
Clearly, Ailes' track record with women didn't preclude him from building a relationship with Trump. If anything, Ailes' ousting Fox offered a chance for Ailes to get closer to the presidential candidate. While facing career-shattering allegations, Ailes hardly seems concerned for his future in The Loudest Voice. Ailes confidently tells his wife, Liz (Sienna Miller), that he can work for Trump.
In fact, Ailes did work for Trump after resigning from his position at Fox News in July 2016. As of August 2016, the New York Times reported that Ailes was advising Trump ahead of the debates. "He's a very, very good person. A lot of people are thinking he's going to run my campaign," Trump told Chuck Todd of CNBC News not long before, in July 2016.
Trump and Ailes had been friendly with one another for decades — but after Ailes was pushed out of Fox News, their relationship became mutually beneficial. As The New York Times explains, "For Mr. Ailes, being connected with Mr. Trump’s campaign could be a form of redemption after he was pushed out of the powerful network that he helped build. And for Mr. Trump, having Mr. Ailes taking a hand in his preparations for the debates adds immeasurably to the messaging and media expertise in his corner."
Essentially, Ailes could apply the aggressive tactics honed at Fox News to Trump's campaign, without any pretense of keeping to the network's "Fair and Balanced" slogan.
According to The Loudest Voice, Ailes predicted his post-Fox future would be intertwined with Trump's political career. Ailes proclaims he'll run Trump's news network — imaginably, one even more conservative than Fox. But Ailes never got a chance: Ailes died at the age of 77 in May 2017.
Ailes left behind a legacy of Fox News, the network that changed the American political landscape. But after his death, many publications also pointed to another one of Ailes' creations: Trump himself. "What Ailes built not only continues on but has realized its apex in the form of President Donald Trump," Ailes' obituary in CNN read.
Seen through that lens, The Loudest Voice is not a period drama, but rather a prologue to the America we live in today.