Roger Ailes’ widow Beth said Megyn Kelly ‘turned’ on him when he reminded her in 2016 that he could fire her from Fox News in a new documentary about the disgraced CEO’s life that came out on Friday.
Man in the Arena was released on Amazon Prime last week and offers a glowing portrait of Ailes, who for years has been presented as a sexual predator due to the claims of at least eight women who say he harassed them at Fox.
It is the first time Beth and her son, Zachary, speak at length in his defense and portray him as a family man.
Ailes died in 2017 at the age of 77, not long after being ousted from Fox as the allegations against him mounted.
Both Kelly and former Fox host Gretchen Carlson claimed they’d been harassed by Ailes. Other women, including staffers and other hosts, made similar allegations.
In the documentary, Beth speaks only of the claims made by Kelly.
Ailes’ son, Zachary, and his wife, Elizbeth or ‘Beth’ as he called her, are also in the documentary
The film, which is narrated by Jon Voight, also includes a comment from the filmmaker that the were restricted legally from discussing other claims.
Beth – who still stands by her husband’s claims that Kelly’s accusations are untrue – says Kelly turned on him after a decades-long friendship because he told her off for trying to negotiate her salary in the press and threatened to fire her.
Megyn Kelly accused Ailes of sexually harassing her when she was a reporter
At the time, Kelly had done an interview with Vanity Fair in January 2016 when she was in the middle of salary negotiations.
In the interview, she said: ‘I think that there’s a spiritual component to my personality that is completely unutilized in my current job.’
The Vanity Fair journalist added: ‘Note to television executives everywhere.’
Ailes, Beth said, took her comments as her trying to negotiate her salary and contract in the press.
‘Megyn Kelly was on the cover of a magazine and in the story she negotiated her contract in the press.
‘Roger called her into her office and he told me that night what happened – he said to her, “you shouldn’t negotiate your contract in the press and you’re forgetting Megyn, you’re not the only one who gets to decide if you stay at Fox.”
‘When he told her that, Roger said her face changed.
‘She turned on him in that very moment and he suspected she was leap frogging him and going directly to the Murdochs to talk directly about her contract.’
It was another six months before the sexual harassment claims against Ailes became public when Gretchen Carlson, another of the network’s hosts, sued the company.
After that, an investigation was launched by a law firm at the behest of Fox to try to weed out other misconduct.
That is when Kelly, and other women at Fox, aired their allegations.
Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly and John Lithgow as Roger Ailes in the 2019 movie Bombshell which tells the story from the perspective of Ailes’ accusers
Others, including Laurie Luhn – a former staffer – made their claims earlier.
In total, Ailes was accused of misconduct by at least eight women.
Beth says that when the lawfirm conducted their investigation, he was never asked to tell his side of the story.
She also speaks about how her late husband helped Kelly’s career.
‘Roger went to bat for Megyn when Megyn and Donald Trump got into a Tweet war.
‘Donald as you might recall was not happy with her questions at the debate and Roger said, famously, the US is at war with various countries but Donald Trump is at war with Megyn Kelly.
‘He stood up for her,’ she said.
Zachary, Ailes’ son, is also interviewed.
‘My dad was the kindest person I ever met He was my hero an I knew that he always had my back.
‘He would take a phone call from me or my mom no matter who he had in the office.
‘If it was his family, his family came first,’ he said.
Beth said he was an ‘older father’ but loved Zach ‘more than life itself’.
‘His father loved him more than life itself and would take him everywhere. Not every kid has met every living president. They had a very close relationship.
‘Roger taught him how to swim, how to throw a baseball. They were inseparable. He was an older dad. He couldn’t get out there and play football on Sunday afternoon but they did a lot of fun things together,’ she said.
Ailes and Beth on their wedding day. They had worked together in television years earlier
Ailes and Zachary when he was a boy. Ailes was an ‘older father’, his widow said, but loved Zachary ‘more than life itself’
Zachary as a teenager while his father was in a wheelchair
Beth told how despite being older, Ailes was active with Zachary when he could be and taught him how to swim
Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes in The Loudest Voice, with an arm around Brandy Jenness, who plays his son
In Bombshell, Connie Britton plays Beth Ailes. She appears infrequently in the film and is presented as blindly defending her husband
The film also features an emotional interview with Beth about when she learned he’d been unfaithful to her with an old girlfriend.
‘Roger was married twice before he met me. In the late 80s, early 90s, he had a girlfriend that I did not know about and I learned, just after he stepped down, that he had taken up with this girlfriend, again, during our marriage.
‘I was blindsided. I was very angry, I was hurt. It was painful.
‘He was sorrowful and sought forgiveness.
‘Those were dark days. Very dark days. An then as I do when I’m upset, I try to rearrange the sock drawer or something like that soI went out into the garage and I was going through some papers an I came across the Robert Frost poem, the road less traveled.
Sienna Miller as Beth Ailes in The Loudest Voice
‘So I took the road less traveled by and for me that made the difference because I kept my marriage together. I believe in forgiveness and I believe that the world has forgotten how to be compassionate and loving and forgive,’ she said.
She also tearfully recalled being with her husband the day he died in May 2017.
‘I was with him the day that he fell. The paramedics were here and they got him on the gurney and they said do you know your name, he said Roger Ailes, and then they said do you know who the president is and he said no. I don’t know.
‘And I started to cry because I realized that was a very bad sign. A man who had elected three presidents wasn’t currently remembering the president but he took a turn for the worse one afternoon and they said you can go in and speak to him before he’s wheeled into surgery.
‘When I went into the room, they said, remember he can hear everything you’re saying, so they said try to sound positive – which is not easy to do under those circumstances – but I held his hand and I remember I placed my hands on his chest and I said, “Roger, we need you. Please come back to us.
‘Please come back. I forgive you.” A big tear rolled right down his cheek so I know he heard me,’ she said.
The filmmakers say they were legally restricted from discussing any of the other allegations against Ailes, including those of Gretchen Carlson.
It does feature interviews with former Fox hosts like Lara Logan and Kiran Chetry who said they ‘never’ experienced harassment from him.
No other on-air talent is interviewed but former star Bill O’Reilly, who was ousted from Fox after being accused of sexual harassment himself, speaks up for Ailes.
Representatives for Kelly could not be reached.
At least seven other women accused Ailes of misconduct; Julia Roginsky, Gretchen Carlson, Kellie Boyle, Rudi Bakhtiar , Andrea Tantaros, Laurie Dhue and Laurie Luhn.