Former FOX News CEO Roger Ailes has died less than a year after being forced to step down from the cable news channel he helped create. He was 77.
Mr Ailes, a force in conservative politics with close ties to Rupert Murdoch, resigned his role at FOX in 2016 amid a sexual harassment scandal.
His wife, Elizabeth, said in a statement she was “heartbroken” and called her husband a “patriot”.
“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,” Mrs Ailes said.
“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.”
Mr Ailes ran Fox News from its launch in 1996, turning it into a ratings hit and booming voice in the US political landscape.The network was integral to US President Donald Trump’s successful run for the White House in 2016.
From the start, Ailes had a clear conservative vision of what he wanted Fox to be as he took the network to the top of the cable news ratings and made it a major profit centre for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media empire.
But accusations of Ailes’s treatment of women would be his downfall. In July 2016, Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who appeared on the popular Fox and Friends morning program before being given her own show, said he made sexual advances toward her and then hurt her career in retaliation after she rejected him.
Two weeks later, Ailes was ousted from the network with a $40 million severance package. His departure came during the Republican National Convention and at a time when the network was scoring record ratings. Shortly after, he began advising the Trump campaign.
Ailes had run Fox News under the slogan “fair and balanced” and conservatives found it a much-needed antidote to the liberal slant of traditional media. Critics denounced it as a cynical and polarising right-wing propaganda machine.
The story of Fox News was the story of Ailes. His conservative red-white-and-blue beliefs set the narrative for the network’s stories, and critics said it was difficult to determine where Ailes’s agenda ended and Republican Party talking points began.
No potential Republican presidential candidate stood much of a chance without his blessing.
“I want to elect the next president,” he told Fox executives at a 2010 meeting, according to the 2014 biography The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman, a writer for New York magazine.
“Ailes’ power and ruthlessness … allowed him to take over the Republican Party and mould it to fit his paranoid world view,” Sherman told the Washington Post in 2016.