Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes, 77, dies

Mr Roger Ailes was seen as a central figure in the conservative US political movement.
Mr Roger Ailes was seen as a central figure in the conservative US political movement.

Tributes pour in for newsman who transformed US TV, politics

NEW YORK • Mr Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a powerful cable giant that transformed both American television and politics, has died at the age of 77, the network has announced.

The Fox co-founder, a consultant to Republican presidents and widely credited with leading a revival of the United States conservative movement, was ousted from the network last year under the cloud of a series of sexual harassment allegations.

The cable network's hosts struggled to hold back tears as they read a statement from Mr Ailes' wife, Elizabeth, announcing his death yesterday.

A long-time confidant of media titan Rupert Murdoch, the Fox co-founder was seen as a central figure in the conservative US political movement, who stood down at Fox in July last year after a sexual harassment lawsuit from former news host Gretchen Carlson.

Fox is owned by Mr Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

Mr Ailes allegedly received a severance package of about US$40 million (S$55.7 million) when he left, according to a source familiar with the situation. He went on to serve as an informal adviser to Mr Murdoch.

His wife's statement, first published on the conservative Drudge Report, said: "I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning."

Mr Ailes, she said, was "the most wonderful loving husband (to me) and father to our son Zachary. He was a loyal friend to so 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".

Neither Mr Ailes nor Fox released any details on the circumstances of his death. A source familiar with the matter claimed he suffered from haemophilia.

Mr Gabriel Sherman, a reporter who wrote a biography of Mr Ailes, said the late newsman died after suffering a blood clot after falling in Palm Beach, Florida, citing two family friends. But his report could not be immediately confirmed.

Under Mr Ailes' leadership, Fox became US' most widely watched cable news channel, home to key conservative political commentators, and drew an audience distinct from rivals CNN and MSNBC.

"Few people in this life will ever reach for the profound level of impact that Roger Ailes had on the country," said Fox News host Sean Hannity, in a tribute to his friend and mentor read out on air.

By creating a cable news giant which became a favourite of conservatives, the late newsman became a central US political figure.

In the 2008 book, Dark Genius: The Influential Career Of Legendary Political Operative And Fox News Founder Roger Ailes, political scientist Kerwin Swint described him as "the dominant media figure of our time", who "radically altered our political and communications landscape".

Mr Ailes served as a consultant to presidents from Mr Richard Nixon to Mr Ronald Reagan to Mr George H.W. Bush. He was also reported to have advised President Donald Trump in the campaign last year.

"Apart from the presidents he served, he was arguably the single most important figure in the creation of modern conservatism," Mr David Greenberg, a Rutgers University political scientist, wrote in an essay for Politico last year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes, 77, dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe