In Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, which premieres Sunday night, Roger Ailes moves from CNBC to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to start a 24-hour, right-leaning news channel, which became, of course, Fox News. In the first episode, Ailes, played by Russell Crowe caked in face prosthetics, tries to convince his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Tilson, played by Sienna Miller, to leave her job at CNBC to join him at Fox News.
“I gotta say, you working for those assholes who fired me, makes me feel like I’m losing,” Ailes says. “And I don’t like to lose.”
She reassures him, “You’re not losing, Roger. You are definitely not losing me.” Ailes and Elizabeth were married soon after.
But in the next scene, the Ailes character goes to a bar to meet Laurie Luhn, the former campaign staffer for George H. W. Bush. He asks her to join Fox, as well, telling her she has “starpower,” then leads her back to a hotel room. The interaction with the Luhn character, who is visibly distressed during her encounter with Ailes, is the series’ first indication of Ailes’ predatory behavior towards women he worked with. In 2016, Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes and a slew of disturbing allegations from other women followed, including Luhn, who said he sexually harassed her for two decades.
The real Elizabeth sat in Ailes’ Fox News office-turned-War Room after the news broke and said, “This is not about money. This is about his legacy,” according to reporting from Gabriel Sherman, who wrote the book on which the Showtime series is based.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Alies’ widow Elizabeth refused to cooperate with producers on The Loudest Voice. “The producers had [reached out], and I knew that she was not willing to cooperate because I think it’s a very personal story,” Miller recently told NPR. “I think obviously in light of all the harassment issues that happened just before he died, and in light of the fact that he so recently died, I think it’s probably too raw. I can understand why she wouldn’t want to be complicit in telling this story.”
Elizabeth has avoided the spotlight, issuing statements to the press but never sitting for an interview. Here’s what to know about her:
Elizabeth was also in the TV business
Elizabeth and Ailes both worked at CNBC in the 1990s. She spent two decades in broadcasting, according to a bio on her website, beginning her career at NBC News Radio and NBC News after graduation with a degree in journalism from Southern Connecticut State University.
In the show, Ailes attempts to bring Elizabeth over to Fox News while they were dating. In real life, he promoted her to become the Vice President of Programming at America’s Talking, the predecessor to MSNBC, right before he left. She remained at the company.
Rudy Giuliani married the couple in 1998.
In a 1997 profile of Ailes, New York magazine reported: “Ailes seemed ‘infatuated’ with the Marilyn Monroe look-alike, a former CNBC executive said. Tilson moved into a large corner office, and she and Ailes met frequently for lunch in a conference room that connected her office to his … This spring, Ailes and Beth Tilson announced their engagement.”
Though the series portrays the pair dating when Ailes leaves CNBC, the New York story says, “Ailes has said their relationship was strictly professional while they were working together.”
In 1999, the couple married on Valentine’s Day at City Hall in New York City with then-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani presiding. Elizabeth was Ailes’ third wife.
Two years later, when Ailes was 59 and Elizabeth was 39, they had a son named Zachary.
She was reportedly involved in defending Ailes against harassment accusations.
In Sherman’s explosive New York expose which revealed decades of Ailes’ predatory behavior, Elizabeth is portrayed as an ally in his defense. After then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly declined to speak out in support of Ailes, Elizabeth suggested the Fox public relations team “release racy photos of Kelly published years ago in GQ as a way of discrediting her,” Sherman wrote.
The piece also indicted that Elizabeth was taking the abuse allegations “especially hard.” Their family friend Giuliani reportedly told Murdoch that she would likely divorce Ailes. Though, they remained together until his death.
The couple bought their local newspapers.
In 2008, the Aileses bought the Putnam County News and Recorder and in 2009, they bought the Putnam County Courier, both in upstate New York, where the family had a home. Elizabeth became the publisher of the papers. Ailes, who had a reputation for a controlling and paranoid management style at Fox, seemed to carry that mentality over to the sleepy small-town papers. According to a 2011 Gawker story, the Alieses had the editor and two reporters of the Putnam County News and Recorder followed and their conversations surveilled in an effort to see if they were “saying mean things” about the couple.
From the Gawker story:
Former employees say the couple seemed to be unduly preoccupied with the tiny papers, and seemed to devote more energy to paranoid delusions of intrigue there than the far more consequential responsibilities that weighed on Roger. “They obsess about the Putnam papers more than Fox News or world events,” says one former staffer.
In a rare public statement, Elizabeth responded to the Gawker story saying, “These rambling allegations are untrue and in fact not even reality based.”
When Carlson came forward with her accusations of harassment, the papers avoided coverage until the Putnam County News and Recorder wrote a front-page story about Ailes attempting to fund a senior center. The piece (which is behind the site’s paywall but was reported on by Gawker) says, “Earlier in the month, an employee whose contract was not renewed, Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Ailes has been under vicious attack since then, though he has not yet been able to speak to defend himself.”
In 2016, Elizabeth sold the papers.
They remained married until Ailes’ death.
Ailes and Elizabeth remained married until his death in 2017 at age 77. They were spending time apart before his death with Elizabeth at their Palm Beach home and Ailes in Garrison, New York, according to Sherman.
She said in a statement issued to the Drudge Report, “I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning surrounded by his beautiful family. Roger was my best friend, the most wonderful loving husband and father to our son Zachary. He was a loyal friend to so many. Roger was a patriot, grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise—and to give back.”
On what appears to be her Twitter account, though it’s unverified, Elizabeth shared a photo of Ailes on the two-year anniversary of his death, writing, “Love is eternal. Rest in peace dear Roger.”