Roger Ailes, 77, former Fox News Channel chairman and chief executive, died Wednesday, his wife, Elizabeth, confirmed Thursday. No cause of death for the conservative TV news heavyweight was announced.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” Elizabeth Ailes said in a statement. “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.”
Ailes was fired from Fox News last year after he was accused of sexual harassment by more than 25 women. He went on to serve as an adviser to President Trump's campaign. That was something of a return to form for Ailes, who joined Richard M. Nixon’s presidential campaign after working on The Mike Douglas Show, a nationally syndicated talk show.
Ailes, an Ohio native, joined KYW-TV in 1962, during the nine years the station was in Cleveland. He was named a production assistant on Douglas in 1964, and was promoted to executive producer in 1966, after production had moved to Philadelphia.
Ailes worked on the show, which was taped at the then-KYW-TV building at 16th and Walnut Streets during his time there, until 1967, when he met Nixon during his second run for president. Nixon was reportedly impressed with Ailes’ approach toward and view of television, which he told Nixon was “not a gimmick,” according to Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President 1968.
Nixon would later invite Ailes to travel from Media, Delaware County, where he lived at the time, to New York, where, Ailes told the Inquirer, “Nixon’s staff grilled me for three hours.” The staff apparently liked what he had to say, and he was later hired to help package Nixon for presentation on television.
As the Washington Post reported, Ailes became a “core member” of the Nixon team, and used “the tools of Madison Avenue and Hollywood [in] a presidential campaign for the first time,” essentially serving as a media adviser. Nixon won the 1968 election with 301 electoral votes. Ailes, meanwhile, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy that year in connection with Douglas.
The 1968 election, Ailes told McGinniss, was the start of “a whole new concept” that melded entertainment and politics in an intimate way. As a result, Ailes said, “this is the way they’ll be elected forevermore.”
The Inquirer seemed to agree, writing in 1970 that Ailes ushered in an era of “image men,” including Harry Treleaven and Al Scott, two early GOP “image makers,” as the Inquirer called them.
Ailes would go on to work with politicians such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush before turning his attention to television with a stint at CNBC from 1993 to 1996. In 1996, Ailes would resign from CNBC, joining Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to launch Fox News in October of that year.
In a statement, Murdoch called Ailes a “brilliant broadcaster [who] played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last 30 years.”
“He will be remembered by many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured, and promoted,” Murdoch said. “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.”