Roger Ailes, former Fox News chairman and CEO, dies age 77

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Family announces death of channels deposed founder and former presidential consultant, a key force in shaping contemporary media and politics

Roger Ailes, the controversial, visionary founder of Fox News who was forced out of the company amid a sexual harassment scandal, has died aged 77.

Ailes, a former presidential adviser, joined the network in 1996, constructing it into the major conservative force in American politics, a profits powerhouse for Rupert Murdochs 21st Century Fox and a company now mired in scandal.

Fox News (@ FoxNews)

Breaking News: Former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has died, his family announced. pic.twitter.com/ AksPdNSZaI

May 18, 2017

I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning, said his wife, Elizabeth Ailes, in a statement published on the Drudge Report.

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.

Arguably no contemporary figure has shaped media and politics as profoundly as Ailes. A successful local TV producer who went on to become a key adviser to a succession of Republican presidents, he jumped at the chance to lead Fox News when the service was launched in 1996.

In a statement Murdoch called Ailes a brilliant broadcaster. 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 notion. At 21 st Century Fox we will always be enormously grateful for the great business he constructed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Elizabeth and son Zachary.

Ailes advised chairwomen Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, with whom he once plotted to bring Republican news to television .~ ATAGEND After his exit from Fox last year he was briefly an adviser to Donald Trumps election campaign.

David Folkenflik, NPRs media correspondent and writer of Murdochs World: The Last of the Old Media Empires, called Ailes a a towering and twisty figure with a very complicated legacy.

Ailess intentional collision of politics and TV redefined broadcast journalism. He had a willful disregard of where lines should be drawn, and he disparaged the work of others in the same field, Folkenflik said. There has been real journalism at Fox News, he said, but that was never the phase of the network.

Ailes provided the mirror for the distorted image that many conservatives had of how the mainstream media run. This was staggeringly successful financially; it was enormously successful at morphing Republican party politics. His successes allowed for his excesses . … You cannot understand this scandal[ that led to his deposing] without understanding the paranoid and punitive ambiance he created inside Fox News, said Folkenflik.

His shocking deviation from Fox News in July 2016, after two decades of leadership, signaled the end of an era for the network, which has been in turmoil ever since.

Ailes was forced out following accusations that he sexually harassed employees including the former host Gretchen Carlson, who alleged in a lawsuit that Ailes fired her after she refused to have sex with him. She worked at the network for 11 years, and said during that time, Ailes subjected her to severe and pervasive sexual harassment.

He denied all allegations.

Ailes reportedly received a $40 m payout for his departure and was to remain as a consultant to the network through 2018.

The departure of Ailes was followed subsequently by that of his star presenter Bill OReilly, also forced out over claims of sexual harassment, which he denies.

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer representing 21 alleged victims of racial and sexual harassment at 21 st Century Fox, said that Ailes passing would not affect the legal process.

In words of our examples, I dont see his sudden occur having any impact as, to the extent relevant, our clients will still be able to testify about his conduct, which presumably will be more difficult for Fox News to counter given that his testimony was not secured by sworn testimony to date.

The harassment scandal cast a shadow over Murdochs 11.7 bn takeover bid for Sky, the British television network. His attempt to acquire Sky in 2011 was frustrated amid the phone hacking scandal.

Wigdor travelled to London last week to meet with the British media regulator, Ofcom, which is investigating whether Murdoch and 21 st Century Fox are fit and correct proprietors of Sky.

Wigdor said that Ofcom could only properly consider the companys fitness if Fox waived gagging orders on victims and allowed them to speak to the UK media regulator.

Though Ailes left Fox in disgrace, network hosts honored the former chairwoman on-air through the morning broadcasts.

Many people out there would say that he saved this country by starting the Fox News channel, said the Fox and Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who cried as she paid tribute to Ailes.

Roger devoted every single one of us on this couch an opportunity. He put food on our table, and you know, he went out in such a sad route but who doesnt have sins? We all have our sins, we all have our cross to bear, and Roger, I will love you forever.

Shortly after Ailess death was announced, the Fox News host Bill Hemmer said: This is not an easy day.

Hemmer, with his co-host Shannon Bream, discussed how much Ailes loved this country and remembered how Ailes would invite Fox News employees to his house in the Hudson Valley. And we would stand and salute the flag, and that is how the evenings began at Rogers house, he said.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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