Roger Ailes, the bombastic and controversial founder and CEO of Fox News who was ousted last year in a sexual harassment scandal, has died, Fox News reported Thursday.
Ailes, who reshaped television news over five decades in the TV and entertainment industry, was 77.
Breaking News: Former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has died, his family announced. pic.twitter.com/AksPdNSZaI— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 18, 2017
HIs death was announced in a statement by his wife, Elizabeth Ailes, according to New York magazine.
In a statement to the Drudge Report, she called him "a loving husband" and "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. 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... "
The cause of death was not immediately clear. However, details are emerging about an accident Ailes suffered in Florida a few days before died. According to a Palm Beach police report, a caller contacted 911 dispatchers just before 2 p.m. on May 10, saying Ailes had fallen in his bathroom, hit his head and had serious bleeding.
The caller said Ailes was not responding appropriately to questions and was still on the ground. Paramedics arrived within a minute and he was taken to a hospital.
No other details were given.
Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, looking shaken, announced Ailes' death to his audience, ending his brief report by saying, softly, "Wow!"
Ailes resigned July 21 following a storm over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox anchor and Twin Cities native Gretchen Carlson. The suit triggered similar claims from other women and an in-house investigation at Fox.
Ailes strongly denied the claims, but stepped down with a $40 million severance package.
Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a biography on Ailes entitled The Loudest Voice in the Room, called his "last chapter" a tragic story, "whatever you think of Roger Ailes."
"It is a tragic, sad morning," Sherman told MSNBC on Thursday. "After all he built in his career, he for all practical purposes died alone."
In a statement announcing Ailes' departure last year, Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, praised Ailes for his "remarkable contribution" to the company and said he "shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years."
Ailes began his television career in the early 1960s as a producer at The Mike Douglas Show in Cleveland, and went onto serve as media consultant for several Republican presidents, including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
In 1996, Murdoch, seeing a market for a conservative cable news outlet, hired Ailes to create Fox News. Ailes molded the network to run like a political campaign operation, with primetime shows that were unabashedly conservative and hosts who openly espoused Republican talking points. The network eventually unseated CNN as the highest-rated cable news network and became one of the most popular cable networks of all genres, reaching more than 90 million households.
The crowning achievement, however, was sullied in his final months by the charges of sexual misconduct. Twenty-First Century Fox noted in a recent quarterly report that it paid $45 million in settlements related to sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.