The former head of Fox News was 77.
Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News who for more than two decades wielded immense influence over U.S. politics, has died at age 77.
Last year, Ailes was pushed out of the network he helped create after a series of sexual harassment allegations from female anchors came to light. He had for the past year been living largely in exile, away from the New York and D.C. power circles he had once bullied and shaped through his TV channel.
Ailes was a master manipulator who in many ways presaged the angry, free-wheeling propaganda that pervades the internet.
Fox News until very recently was the most-watched cable news network, largely because of a clever inverse Ailes crafted, marketing its broadcast as “fair and balanced” when in fact he pushed a conservative political agenda through heavy commentary and misinformation.
He fueled the rise of the right and played a big role in helping Donald Trump win the presidential election.
His savvy media sensibilities led to dominant ratings, transforming cable news. To compete, most major news networks were forced to follow suit, effectively picking a side politically, or at the very least saddling every hour with commentators and pundits.
That tactic has become evident in rivals MSNBC, which now dominates evening ratings with a lineup of liberal presenters, and CNN, a network that has come under criticism for its regular cast of vacuous proxies for both the right and the left.
His wife, Elizabeth, confirmed his death in a note she first sent to the Drudge Report.
Statement from Elizabeth Ailes:
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. 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. And so even as we mourn his death, we celebrate his life…
And here’s a statement from Ailes’ former boss, 21st Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch:
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.