Ex-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes Dead at 77

The former Fox News founder’s family confirmed his passing in a Thursday morning statement.

Fred Prouser/Reuters

Roger Ailes passed away Thursday morning, according to his family.

The Fox News founder and former CEO was 77 years old and had publicly battled multiple illnesses for some time—including hemophilia since childhood—before his ouster from the cable-TV network last summer.

In a statement, the ex-media mogul's wife Elizabeth Ailes confirmed the death, originally reported by longtime Ailes media ally Drudge Report. "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," she wrote. "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."

Ailes began his media career in local television, working his way up to becoming the executive producer of The Mike Douglas Show. In 1967, he moved from television to politics after Richard Nixon recruited him to produce his television appearances and present the infamously dour politician in a more accessible light. Nixon won the 1968 election and Ailes became a political power-broker, later serving as a consultant to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

In the 1990s, he returned to TV media, serving as president of CNBC before departing to found Fox News in 1996, forever changing the cable-news landscape.

Over 20 years, Ailes developed the decidedly right-wing Fox News into the most-watched cable-news outlet in America, grooming primetime stars like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Megyn Kelly into household names in the process. Ailes effectively became the most powerful man in political media.

But that success had its dark side.

Ailes resigned from Fox News last summer and received a substantial golden-parachute payout in the wake of ex-host Gretchen Carlson's sexual-harassment lawsuit against him.

Though he denied the allegations, Carlson's claims of inappropriate workplace behavior and widespread retaliation against those who complained were corroborated by other female former staffers, leading to Ailes's exit.

No cause of death was immediately given.