Fox News founder Roger Ailes dead
Roger Ailes, the communications maestro who transformed television news and America’s political conversation by creating and ruling Fox News Channel for two decades before being ousted last year for alleged sexual harassment, died Thursday, according to his wife, Elizabeth Ailes. He was 77.
The cause of death and where Ailes died was not reported.
But according to the Palm Beach (Florida) Police Department, a caller contacted 911 dispatchers on May 10, saying Ailes had fallen in his bathroom, hit his head and was bleeding profusely. He was taken to a hospital by attending paramedics. Whether he had been released from the hospital since then was not immediately clear.
A former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump, Ailes displayed a mastery of modern messaging early in his career. Then he changed the face of 24-hour news when, in 1996, he accepted a challenge from media titan Rupert Murdoch to build a news network from scratch to compete with CNN and other TV outlets they deemed left-leaning.
That October, Ailes flipped the switch on Fox News Channel, which within a few years became the audience leader in cable news. Ailes branded the network “Fair and Balanced” and declared he had left the political world behind, but conservative viewers found a home and lifted prime-time commentators Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity to the top of the news ratings.
“He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better,” Hannity tweeted on Thursday.
Fox News and 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch called Ailes “a brilliant broadcaster (who) played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last thirty years” in a statement.
“He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted,” Murdoch said. “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.”
Others laid the nation’s political dysfunction and inability to find common ground at his feet, creating the atmosphere for Trump to succeed.
“It’s a very complicated story,” said Gabriel Sherman, author of the Ailes biography, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” “He is in some ways a genius and in some ways tragic. His quest for power consumed him.”