NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – Former Fox News Channel and Fox Business CEO Roger Ailes has died after falling and hitting his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach home.
The news was first made public on DrudgeReport.com which posted a statement from Ailes’ wife.
“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…”
The cause of death and where Ailes died was not reported. But according to the Palm Beach Police Department, a caller contacted 911 dispatchers on May 10, saying Ailes had fallen in his bathroom, hit his head and was bleeding profusely. He was taken to a hospital by attending paramedics. Whether he had been released from the hospital since then was not immediately clear.
The 77-year-old media executive built a network that both transformed the news business and changed the political conversation. Fox News Channel provided a television home to conservatives who had felt left out of the media, and played a part in advancing a rough-and-tumble style of politics that left many concerned that it was impossible to get things done in government.
Last year, Ailes resigned from the networks amid accusations he forced out a former anchor after she rejected his sexual advances.
Ailes’ downfall began with the July 6 filing of a lawsuit by Gretchen Carlson, who charged that Ailes sabotaged her career because she refused his suggestions for sex and had complained about a pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment at Fox. Ailes has denied the charges, but 21st Century Fox hired a law firm to investigate.
Several Fox employees jumped to Ailes’ defense, but notably not Megyn Kelly, one of Fox’s top personalities. Kelly was among other women who had told investigators about harassment, which Ailes denied. It was 20th Century Fox corporate heads Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, who determined that Ailes had to go.
Within two weeks of the court filing, Carlson’s lawyers also said more than 20 women had contacted the firm with stories of alleged harassment by Ailes either against themselves or someone they knew. Two came forward publicly.
Before the charges, Fox’s sheer success had insulated Ailes despite some previous scrapes with the Murdoch sons. Fox News Channel is the parent company’s single most important property, said Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser, with some estimates that it accounted for nearly a quarter of the company’s profits.
Ailes was a prominent Republican media consultant who later ran CNBC before Murdoch asked him to create a cable news network to compete with CNN at the same time MSNBC was starting. Ailes’ slogans, “fair and balanced” and “we report, you decide,” appealed to an audience that believed mainstream outlets didn’t live up to those promises.
“He was ahead of his time in recognizing that dividing, not uniting, an audience would be the key to commercial success in the 21st Century cable news business,” said Matt Sienkiewicz, a communications professor at Boston College. Ailes blew apart the notion that public affairs programming should target a broad audience with civil debates, he said.
Ailes hired a combative broadcast journeyman in Bill O’Reilly and turned him into the star of an opinionated prime-time lineup. He directed news coverage and emphasized issues like the so-called “war on Christmas” or the Benghazi investigation that otherwise got little attention. Republican politicians considered Fox the first stop for reaching their intended audience, and they learned to talk tough.
O’Reilly was recently ousted by the network amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment dating back to 2004.
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