Roger Ailes, Who Built Fox News, Dies at 77

Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a powerhouse before being ousted in a sexual harassment scandal, died at 77.

In a statement to Drudge Report, his wife Elizabeth Ailes said, "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."

No cause of death was given.

Ailes and Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch started Fox News in 1996 as an alternative to the mainstream media. Under its "fair and balanced" motto, the network shot to the top of the ratings in cable, not just among the news networks, and became a force in Republican politics.

“Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes,” said Murdoch in a statement. “A brilliant broadcaster, Roger played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last thirty years. He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted.

"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 lost his power after a Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, sued for sexual harassment. Rupert Murdoch's son, new 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, instead of loyally standing by Ailes, hired a law firm to investigate the claims of Carlson and other women who worked at Fox News.

The result of the investigation led to Ailes leaving Fox News. A year later, Fox News' highest-rated host Bill O'Reilly was also ousted from the network because of sexual harassment complaints.

Ailes grew up in Ohio and got a job in the radio business out of college.

He move to TV and became executive producer of The Mike Douglas Show when it was a local program originating from Philadelphia.

He met Richard Nixon when he was a guest on the Douglas show, and Ailes became an advisor to Nixon's successful presidential campaign in 1968.

Ailes worked on a series of campaigns until 1993 when he became president of CNBC and helped start up the America's Talking cable network, which became MSNBC. When he was passed over to run MSNBC, Ailes left and helped Murdoch form Fox News.

On Twitter, Fox News host Sean Hannity said:

"Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors. Roger Ailes. For Decades RA's has impacted American politics and media. He has  dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better. Neither will ever be the same again as he was a true American original.

Few people in this life will ever reach the profound level of impact that Roger Ailes had on the country every single day.

On a personal note, were it not for Roger Ailes, I would not be the person I am today.

In 1996 he took a huge risk on an inexperienced, young, local radio talk show host in Atlanta. To this day I have no earthly idea why I was hired and not fired early on, as I had little television experience when I was hired by FNC, as old tapes humbly remind me. He saw something in me and many others he hired that we never saw in ourselves, and he forever changed the trajectory of thousands of people's lives.

In many ways he was like a second father after I lost my father 6 months after I started at FNC in 3/97. I am forever grateful.

His endless enthusiasm, energy, wit, humor and raw instinctive intelligence will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers now turn to him, his Wife Beth, his son Zachary, his brother and his family. He will be deeply missed.

It would be nice if the media would leave Roger and his family alone in their time of grief, but knowing people that hated him and his politics, and those that forget "all have sinned and fallen short" and "cast the first stone" I doubt that will happen.

But to his enemies know this; I say ADVANTAGE ROGER, In his mind he just has a head start in preparing to kick your ass in the next life.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.