Roger Ailes, long-time head of Fox News, has passed away at the age of 77 according to a statement released by his wife Elizabeth. In the statement, Elizabeth called the controversial network chief “a patriot who was profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise and to give back.” Ailes leaves behind his wife and a son, Zachary.
Ailes was born in Warren, Ohio and graduated from Ohio University before pursuing a career in television production. After an encounter with Richard Nixon on a television program, Ailes was hired on by Nixon’s campaign as a media advisor. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was both a television producer and a political consultant for several Republicans, including Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He later transferred his political ideals into the direction of Fox News Channel in the late 1990s. He helped that channel rise from humble roots to becoming the leading competitor in the 24-hour news category against CNN. Ailes was behind the shift in strategy from simply dictating the news to providing punditry as “news entertainment”, via charismatic and controversial hosts such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. His network was also seen as a kingmaker for the Republican Party, often hiring former candidates whose politics agreed with Ailes’, including Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.
Ailes was already reviled by Democratic and liberal-leaning Americans, but he fell further into national disgrace when it was revealed last year that he was guilty of sexual harassment against former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who successfully argued that Ailes fired her over a refusal of sexual favors. A month later, after an internal investigation, Ailes resigned as CEO of the network. The culture he seemingly condoned came further to light when O’Reilly, his biggest star, was also forced out thanks to several sexual harassment claims brought against him.