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A.J. Bauer is visiting assistant professor of media, culture, and communication at NYU and co-editor of News on the Right. Reece Peck is assistant professor of media culture at College of Staten Island (CUNY) and author of Fox Populism. Each week, they'll recap the new Showtime limited series The Loudest Voice.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks have been exploited for many ignoble ends over the years: from rebranding Rudy Giuliani's abysmal mayoralty to branding Glenn Beck's Tea Party knock-off — not to mention the U.S. war in Iraq.
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Might as well add "humanizing Roger Ailes" to that list.
Episode 2 of The Loudest Voice, "2001," brings us back to that fateful day, this time from Ailes' point of view. As it was for so many of us, it's a typical morning for Ailes — he wraps his English muffin in a paper towel and kisses his wife, Beth (Sienna Miller), and infant son goodbye, all while micromanaging Fox & Friends from his cell phone.
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Ailes' workday begins, as workdays at Fox back then seemingly did, with defending a conspicuously off-camera Bill O'Reilly — whose unspecified "newsroom banter" requires a payoff. "Look, I know O'Reilly's a pain in the ****, but look at his numbers," an exasperated Ailes tells legal. "Just take care of it."
Moments later, Ailes learns of the first plane striking the World Trade Center from a cell call, and he's watching monitors with henchman Brian Lewis (Seth MacFarlane) as the second plane hits in real time. Ailes (Russell Crowe) is compellingly gobsmacked as he realizes it's no accident. His first impulse, stammered to assistant Judy Laterza (Aleksa Palladino), is to call his wife with instructions to stay put. See, Ailes is a devoted husband and father. His second impulse is to dispatch Fox anchor Shephard Smith to the roof with a camera crew.
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Aim and timing is evereything.