Roger Ailes, who built the Fox News Channel into a powerful political force and a potent ratings generator before resigning last year amid allegations of sexual harassment, is dead.
Ailes died this morning at 77, according to a statement from his wife.
The statement from Elizabeth Ailes says: “I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many. He was also a patriot, profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise — and to give back.”
Ailes led the Fox News Channel for 20 years, from its founding in 1996. He stepped down as chairman and CEO in July of last year amid a sexual harassment scandal that included a lawsuit filed against him by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson.
“Ailes was famous for his shrewd leadership of Fox, including his focus on airing conservative opinions and hiring anchors and reporters with big personalities,” NPR reports. “But he left Fox with a tarnished legacy, facing legal actions over allegations of sexual harassment.”
Reuters notes that Ailes walked away from his post with a severance package valued at about $40 million, and reportedly remained an informal adviser to Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of Fox News Channel and its owner 21st Century Fox Inc.
Murdoch issued a statement in response to news of Ailes’ death, writing, in full: “Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes.
“A brilliant broadcaster, Roger played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last thirty years. He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted.
“Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have. In addition, Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs.
“At 21st Century Fox we will always be enormously grateful for the great business he built. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Elizabeth and son Zachary.”
Fox News mainstay Sean Hannity sent out a series of tweets today about Ailes, writing: “Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors. Roger Ailes. For Decades RA’s has impacted American politics and media. He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better. Neither will ever be the same again as he was a true American original.”
Ainsley Earhardt, a co-host of Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” said: “Many people out there would say he saved this country by starting the Fox News Channel.”
The NPR report adds: “Ailes made his early reputation as a strategist and media advisor to Republican political candidates, beginning with Richard M. Nixon and including Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. His behind-the-scenes work to shape a more appealing television image for Nixon during his successful 1968 presidential campaign was chronicled in Joe McGinniss’ bestselling book ‘The Sellling of the President.'”
The Los Angeles Times reports that Ailes, who coached both Reagan and Bush for their presidential debates in the 1980s, worked with presidential candidate Donald Trump following Ailes’ resignation from Fox News, helping Trump prepare for his debates with Hillary Clinton.
Roger Ailes in a 2010 video interview, posted
by the Hoover Institution on YouTube