Roger Ailes, who built Fox News Channel into a cable behemoth with a focus on right-leaning commentary and hard news, and who became a lightning rod for controversy almost the whole way, has passed away at the age of 77. Drudge got the initial scoop this morning with this statement from his wife Elizabeth:
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…
Fox News confirmed it shortly afterward.
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
Ailes was the founding CEO of Fox News Channel when it launched in October 1996. He had worked his way up from entry-level jobs in local broadcasting in Cleveland and Philadelphia, eventually catching on as a producer for The Mike Douglas Show before it went into syndication. (For those not old enough to recall daytime talk shows in the 1970s, they were usually genial, pop-culture and celebrity oriented, with hosts like Douglas and Dinah Shore, who both came out of the Big Band era. Daytime talk shows eventually morphed into political and harder-edged cultural debates, which presaged the kind of prime-time fare that would come on cable news networks.) Ailes went to work for Richard Nixon as a television consultant for his campaigns, and then worked on Republican campaigns, such as those for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Richard Thornburgh, and continued his political consulting until taking the reins at Fox News Channel.
Ailes’ years at FNC turned out to be wildly successful as well as controversial, and the controversies continue to this day. There will be time enough to unpack those as they come up. For now, we’ll recall Ailes’ impact on news broadcasting and politics, and offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. My friend, colleague, and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich put it best: