Roger Ailes, conservative TV titan accused of sexual harassment, has died

Roger Ailes, the longtime chairman of Fox News who built a conservative media empire before allegations of sexual harassment forced his ouster last year, has died. He was 77.

Word of Ailes' death was reported on "Fox and Friends" shortly after it surfaced on the Drudge Report. Hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt read a statement from his wife, Elizabeth Ailes, on air.

They did not say how he died. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that he had been "in failing health" of late and was recently hospitalized after a fall. New York's Gabriel Sherman, citing "a family friend," tweeted that Ailes recently suffered complications from a blood clot.

"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," the statement read. "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."

In a statement released Thursday, News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch called Ailes "a brilliant broadcaster" who "played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last 30 years."

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.

Ailes was the head of Fox News for more than two decades and steered the company to ever-higher profits while courting a loyal right-wing audience and no shortage of controversy in the network's primetime lineup. He was forced out in July after several public accusations of sexual harassment. He vigorously denied the allegations.

In recent days, Ailes was spending time apart from his wife, Sherman reported Thursday:

https://twitter.com/gabrielsherman/status/865192365711142914

Ailes, who was "the life force for the propulsive financial successes at Fox News" will leave behind a complicated legacy, said NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, a longtime Fox News chronicler and author of Murdoch's World, a book about Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Ailes was an influential practitioner of the anti-media "grievance culture" who spawned a "toxic atmosphere" of paranoia at the network he founded.

"It provides a coda to the season of scandal we've had for the past 10 months," Folkenflik said, referring to the successive departures of Ailes, "O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O'Reilly and Fox News executive Bill Shine. "In some ways, it allows him to avoid spending his waning years tied up in court. Obviously, for those who've known him, a sad moment. And it's moment to reflect on his legacy, which is a complicated one."

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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