Roger Ailes, the controversial founder and longtime CEO of Fox News, has passed away, according to a statement released by his wife.
He was 77.
Regardless of your political views or views of him personally, Ailes reshaped TV news over five decades in the entertainment industry.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes passed away this morning,” Elizabeth Ailes said.
She called him “a loving husband” and “patriot.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted his tributes to his onetime boss, saying that Ailes was like a “second father.” to him.
“Today, America lost one of its great patriotic warriors. He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape.”
“Single-handedly for the better.”
The cause of death of Roger Ailes was not immediately clear, and Fox News of all networks was slower than most to announce the news.
Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, looking shaken, first reported Ailes death to his audience, ending his brief report by saying, softly, “Wow!”
Ailes resigned from Fox News last summer following a storm over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.
The suit triggered similar claims from other women and an in-house investigation at Fox, and indirectly to Bill O’Reilly getting fired as well.
Ailes strongly denied the claims against him, but stepped down with a multi-million dollar settlement from Fox that softened the blow.
Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a biography entitled The Loudest Voice in the Room, called this tragic, “whatever you think of Roger Ailes.”
“It is a “tragic, sad morning,” Sherman tells MSNBC, noting, “After all he built in his career, he for all practical purposes died alone.”
Twenty-First Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News chaired by Rupert Murdoch, issued its own statement moments ago.
Murdoch praised Ailes for his “remarkable contribution” and said he “shared my vision of a great and independent television organization.”
Ailes, he said, “executed it brilliantly over 20 great years” after beginning his career in the 1960s as a producer at The Mike Douglas Show.
He went on to serve as a media consultant for several Republican presidents of the U.S., including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
In 1996, Murdoch, seeing a market for a conservative cable news outlet in a sea of liberal-leaning media, hired Ailes to create Fox News.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ailes molded the network to run more like a campaign operation, with shows that were unabashedly conservative and politically divisive.
People gravitated to this model, which began to influence not only political coverage but politics itself in a way that was unprecedented.
Even those who came to loathe the network cannot help but acknowledge its status as a perennial, game-changing ratings juggernaut.
Fox News eventually ousted CNN as the highest rated cable news network and became one of the most popular networks of all genres.
More than 90 million households regularly tune in, a figure that would have been scoffed at had it been predicted in the late ’90s.
Ailes’ crowing achievements were sullied somewhat, however, in his final months at the network by the charges of sexual misconduct.
The parent company confirms that it has paid upwards of $45 million in settlements related to harassment allegations against Ailes.