Officials: Ailes died after fall in Palm Beach home
Fox News chief was hemophiliac
Roger Ailes, founder and longtime head of Fox News — who also worked as an adviser to Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump — died Thursday from complications after he fell and injured his head last week at his Palm Beach home.
Hemophilia contributed to Ailes’ death, Palm Beach County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Bell said Thursday. His deathwas accidental, with no evidence of foul play, he said.
A caller contacted 911 dispatchers May 10, saying Ailes had fallen in his bathroom in Palm Beach, hit hishead andwas bleeding profusely,
according to the police. He was taken to a hospital by paramedics.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” his wife, Elizabeth Ailes, said in a statement. “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.”
The former Fox News chairman was credited with making the channel a ratings powerhouse over his 20 years at the helm. He went on to create a cable news juggernaut that provided an outlet for conservatives who felt their views were under-represented by the three broadcast networks.
Fox News also would alter how Americans view the media, ushering in the era of personality-driven, opinionated journalism that nowdominates the cable news business.
“Roger Ailes understood the power of television to shape the public agenda more than most, and he used it to great partisan effect in supporting an ideology focused on conservatives,” said RichHanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University.
Ailes’ death caps a period of turmoil at Fox News, which is still facing lawsuits and a federal investigation into how settlement claims were paid under his 20-year watch at the network. Ailes was ousted in July 2016 after embarrassing allegations that he had sexually harassed former anchor Gretchen Carlson. He dismissed the allegations, but faced additional claims of misconduct and Fox News paid $20 million to settle the suit.
He also was a subject of an ongoing federal investigation into whether 21st Century Fox violated any securities laws in its handling of payments to women to resolve sexual harassment claims.
But while he exited in disgrace, Ailes’ legacy as a powerful force in themedia business and the nation’s political culture will be lasting.
“No one did more to change the media landscape than Roger Ailes, but no media executive did more to divide America,” said Joe Peyronnin, a former network news executive who worked for Fox before Ailes was hired to launch the news channel. “Ailes was a brilliant TV executive who saw an opportunity two decades ago to build a conservative news source and seized it.”
While liberal critics believe Fox News is a rightwing propaganda channel, Ailes did succeed in creating a full-fledged news operation that broke the hegemony of CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN — all of which were seen by a large segment of the country as being too sympathetic to liberalism.
Not only did Fox News provide a platform for conservative voices — it made other news organizations consider the point of view in their coverage.
“I do think part of Roger’s legacy is that other newsrooms always wondered: ‘How will Fox play this?’ ” said Neal Shapiro, former NBC News president. “And the part of Roger’s game plan was to draw ... distinctions between the way Fox would cover a story and the rest of the mediawould do it.”
Ailes was also a largerthanpersonality known for ruthlessly attacking his competitors in the news landscape as if they were opposing political candidates.
Rick Kaplan, a former president of CNN, recalls how Ailes had described the established channel as the “Clinton News Network,” perpetuating the idea that the channel favored the Clinton White House. Kaplan was a personal friend of the Bill and Hillary Clinton before he took over the cable channel.
“How else were you going to be heard in a media landscape like this?” Kaplan recalled.
The two ended up becoming friends and Ailes, who even called Kaplan’s mother to assure her that his public comments were just business and not personal.
Kaplan said Ailes was also a brilliantTVproducer who was keenly aware of that even with talking heads, he was working in a visual medium. Fox News always had state-of-the-art graphics and animation. His penchant for putting attractive women on the air, with legs displayed on the set, waswell known.
“Roger has a very visually pleasing network in terms of look and color and form,” Kaplan said.
Ailes was so effective in the way he produced and packaged TV programming, he was able to take personalities who were little known or had limited success elsewhere and turned them into stars.
Ailes took a journeyman TV correspondent, Bill O’Reilly, and turned him into cable TV’s most popular host, with an aura of the educated guy at the end of the bar who wasn’t afraid to give his opinions. Ailes discovered a young local radio talk show host in Atlanta, Sean Hannity, and made him a TV star.
“To this day I have no earthly idea why I was hiredandnot firedearly on, as I had little television experience when I was hired by FNC,” Hannity said in a statement.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause of deathwas complications of a subdural hematoma (bleeding into the brain), with hemophilia as a contributing factor.
Even before then, Ailes was known to be in poor health. “The actuaries say I have six to eight years. The best tables give me 10. Three thousand days, more or less,” he told biographer Zev Chafets in 2012.
“Because of my hemophilia, I’ve been prepared to face death all ofmy life,” Chafets’ book, “Roger Ailes Off Camera,” quotes him as saying. “As a boy I spent a lot of time in hospitals. My parents had to leave at the end of visiting hours, and I spent a lot of time just lying there in the dark, thinking about the fact that any accident could be dangerous or even fatal. So I’m ready. Everybody fears the unknown. But I have a strong feeling there’s something bigger than us.”
Born inWarren, Ohio, on May15, 1940, Roger Eugene Ailes made his early reputation as a strategist and media adviser to Republican political candidates, beginning with RichardM. Nixon and including Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. His behind-thescenes work to shape a more appealing television image for Nixon during his successful 1968 presidential campaign was chronicled in Joe McGinniss’ bestselling book, “The Selling of the President.”
Ailes is survived by his wifeandtheir son, Zachary.
Fox News founder Roger Ailes is seen in a 2005 photo with Brian Kilmeade, who co-hosts Fox’s morning show.
Roger Ailes fell in the bathroom of his home overlooking the Atlantic in Palm Beach last week and died Thursday.