One of the most influential figures in the media over the last two decades, founder and former-CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes, passed away on Thursday at age 77. No cause of death has yet been given.
His wife Elizabeth Ailes released a touching statement Thursday on the passing of her “best friend”:
“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. During a career that stretched over more than five decades, his work in entertainment, in politics, and in news affected the lives of many millions.”
Ailes became the founding CEO of Fox News in October 1996; under his leadership, the right-leaning channel became the highest rated cable news network in the country — and thus a frequent target of the political left, as Ailes himself inevitably became. Ailes also served as chairman of Fox Business Network as well as Fox Television Stations, 20th Television and MyNetworkTV. Before founding FNC, Ailes worked for decades as a media producer and political consultant, including working with the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Ailes’ impact on the political landscape of the country has been so significant that he has been credited with (or blamed for, from the liberal perspective) having “created modern conservativism.”
In response to his passing, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham commented on the uniqueness of Ailes’ talent and breadth of his influence. “He was my friend and mentor — a talent unlike which we will ever see again, who understood how to produce powerful storytelling in politics, entertainment and news,” said Ingraham. “Countless television personalities for whom he worked owe their careers to his good judgment and guidance.”
After nearly two decades leading the massively successful network, the media titan resigned from his positions at FCN and FBN on July 21, 2016, amid sexual harassment allegations from former FNC host Gretchen Carlson, who filed a lawsuit against her former boss on July 6. Though Ailes adamantly denied the “false” allegations and dismissed the lawsuit as “retaliatory,” he stated in his resignation letter that he did not want to be a “distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry.”
Rupert Murdoch succeeded Ailes as chairman and interim CEO of Fox News. Ailes reportedly received $40 million in the exit agreement.
Ailes has recently been in the news again amid rumors of plans by various unnamed conservative media players to launch a new, more conservative alternative to Fox News, which is currently under a federal investigation involving some of the allegations against Ailes and has seen a major shakeup in both its leadership and lineup since Ailes’ departure.