What exactly goes on behind the scenes of this controversial news corporation? Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things Bombshell Got Factually Right.
For this list, we’re taking a look at accurate plot points and details from this drama about the Fox News misconduct scandal. In case you haven’t seen the film yet, this list contains spoilers, not to mention bombshells.
#10: More Than 20 Women Accused Roger Ailes
In 2016, Megyn Kelly reportedly informed investigators that she had been sexually harassed by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. When Kelly goes on the record in “Bombshell,” the investigators label her with the letter “W,” meaning that she’s the 23rd woman who has accused Ailes. According to Gretchen Carlson’s lawyers, more than 20 women accused Ailes of inappropriate behavior, both publicly and privately. Many of the women who spoke out against Ailes were former Fox News employees, including Rudi Bakhtiar, Laurie Luhn, and Andrea Tantaros. The film does take a few creative liberties with Ailes’ accusers. Most notably, Kayla Pospisil, a Fox News journalist played by Margot Robbie, is a composite character. Just because Kayla is fictitious, though, doesn’t mean her story is without truth.
#9: Megyn Kelly’s White Santa Debate
During a brief news segment in the film, Kelly scoffs at the possibility that Santa is any color other than white. This is based on an actual Fox News story in which Kelly slammed a Slate article entitled “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore.” Addressing all the “kids watching at home,” Kelly firmly insisted that “Santa just is white.” She’d go on to say that “Jesus was a white man too.” Kelly revisited the “White Christmas” debate in a later segment, claiming that an “offhand jest” she made snowballed out of control and Fox News was being unfairly targeted. Aisha Harris, the Slate piece’s writer, interpreted Kelly’s comment as more than just a joke and accused Fox of playing the victim.
#8: Elizabeth Ailes Stood by Her Husband
Connie Britton portrayals Elizabeth Tilson Ailes, Roger’s third wife. Working as a programming executive, Tilson met Ailes at CNBC and they were married in 1998. Just as there’s a significant age difference between Britton and John Lithgow, Tilson was 37 while Ailes was 58 when they wedded. “Bombshell” depicts Tilson as a “good wife” archetype who supports her husband, even as he faces a harassment lawsuit with accusations piling up. In response to the allegations, Tilson reportedly stated, “This is not about money. This is about his legacy.” Despite defending her husband, there were reports that Tilson took the accusations “especially hard” and considered divorcing Ailes. Nevertheless, the couple remained together until Ailes passed in 2017, less than a year after the scandal hit.
#7: Gretchen Carlson’s Real Stories
Although she was given her own afternoon show after leaving “Fox & Friends,” Gretchen Carlson didn’t always fit the network’s mold. Leading up to her termination, Carlson took a few stances that challenged the Fox News brand. As seen in “Bombshell,” Carlson did an exposé on how makeup is used to sexualize girls in culture. Carlson emphasized her point by not wearing any makeup for the segment, claiming this was a first for cable news. Carlson also advocated an assault weapons ban in a 2016 segment. 89% of viewers disagreed with Carlson, to which she replied on the air, “That’s fine. That’s what makes America great.” Only a few days after Carlson showed support for stricter gun laws, her contract with Fox News officially expired.
#6: Roger Ailes Threw Doughnuts
Actual reports indicate that Ailes was every bit as paranoid as “Bombshell” suggests. Ailes reportedly had around-the-clock security at his home and was even accused of spying on reporters. One of the most bizarre details that the film gets down is how Ailes used donuts. In multiple scenes, we see Ailes stocking up on these fried desserts. It’s said that Ailes orders donuts just so he can throw them at people during his emotional moments. This behavior is backed up in the biographical book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” which reads, “Aisles could turn donuts into projectiles.” Although Ailes didn’t always eat the donuts, both the book and this film point out his poor diet, claiming he’d order entire pages off room service menus.
#5: Gretchen Carlson Recorded Conversations
Instead of going after Fox News, Carlson filed a lawsuit directly against Ailes, who continually denied the allegations aimed at him. In the film, Ailes is finally backed into a corner when his lawyer, Susan Estrich, tells him that Carlson recorded their conversations. In 2014, about two years before the scandal broke out, Carlson started using her iPhone to secretly tape her meetings with Ailes. Carlson dedicated an entire year to recording the inappropriate comments of Ailes and other Fox News employees. Ailes reportedly asked Carlson to “turn around so he could view her posterior,” which we see him do on multiple occasions in “Bombshell.” The tapes also caught Ailes telling Carlson, “you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.”
#4: Megyn Kelly Faced Backlash from Trump Supporters
Fox News’ audience is known for being conservative, but that didn’t stop Kelly from calling out Donald Trump’s treatment towards women during the first Republican presidential debate. This ignited an ongoing feud between the two with Trump posting numerous tweets that painted Kelly as “crazy.” Kelly thus became the story, as well as a target. As the film shows us, Kelly was heavily criticized and even threatened by Trump supporters. In an interview, Kelly stated, “The vast majority of Donald Trump supporters are not at all this way,” but added, “The worst part is the security threats that I’ve had to face and, as much as I try to avoid some of that online vitriol, I get lots of it and I really hate it.”
#3: Roger Ailes’ Meeting with Rupert Murdoch
The final act of “Bombshell” is mostly faithful to Ailes’ downfall as he’s barred from the news empire he helped build. On July 21, 2016, Ailes and Susan Estrich reported to the apartment of Rupert Murdoch, played here by Malcolm McDowell. In the film, Murdoch’s two sons, Lachlan and James, are also present at the meeting. This is slightly off, as James was not present, although Lachlan did attend. Peter Johnson and Gerson Zweifach are also notably absent from this scene. Nevertheless, Rupert did inform Ailes that he’d temporarily be taking over Fox News. He also denied Ailes’ request to walk into the Fox News headquarters with him and announce his departure. Ailes ultimately agreed to go quietly, receiving a severance package of $40 million.
#2: The Black Room
Speaking to a former Fox News journalist played by Jennifer Morrison, Megyn Kelly learns about the infamous “Black Room,” as various insiders called it. Established in 2011 on the 14th floor of the News Corporation building, the Black Room is where Ailes supposedly managed public relations and surveillance campaigns against his foes in secrecy. Among the people Ailes targeted was reporter Gabriel Sherman, who’d go on to write “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” According to Sherman, the “Black Room” consisted of “consultants, political operatives, and private detectives who reported only to [Ailes].” The Fox News CEO reportedly used company money to fund these sketchy operations, although Susan Estrich claimed on Ailes’ behalf, “These allegations are totally false.”
#1: Fox News Dresses
Throughout “Bombshell,” Ailes is seen ordering the network’s female talent to wear dresses, sit at see-through desks, and show off their legs. According to “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Ailes once called during a segment taping, saying, “Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!” While Fox News denied accusations that there was a “miniskirt dress code,” Ailes didn’t make it easy for female employees to cover up their legs. Under Ailes’ management, Jedediah Bila claims that the wardrobe department was full of dresses, but no pants were available. Bila was also reportedly told that she couldn’t wear orange because Ailes wasn’t a fan of the color. After Ailes’ departure, women were permitted to start wearing pants and jumpsuits on the air.