Roger Ailes, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Fox News, has died at the age of 77.
Ailes’ death comes less than a year after he resigned from the network over allegations of sexual harassment.
His wife Elizabeth, with whom he has one 16-year-old son, broke the news on Thursday with a statement to Matt Drudge:
‘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 statement reads.
Sources tell TMZ that Ailes died after falling down and hitting his head at his Palm Beach, Florida home eight days ago.
The sources say Ailes became unconscious and fell into a coma on Wednesday. He died Wednesday night.
That report was backed up by New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, who has extensively covered Ailes over the years.
‘Last week Ailes had some kind of blood clot in Palm Beach. Suffered complications,’ a family friend of Ailes told Sherman.
Ailes celebrated his 77th birthday on Monday.
Fox News anchor Sean Hannity was one of the first to tweet his condolences to Ailes’ family.
‘Today, America lost one of its great patriotic warriors,’ Hannity tweeted. ‘He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape, single-handedly for the better.’
In recent years, Ailes’ health had begun to decline.
In an excerpt from the 2013 biography ‘Roger Ailes Off Camera,’ Ailes said he knew he didn’t have long left to live.
‘My doctor told me that I’m old, fat, and ugly, but none of those things is going to kill me immediately,’ he told the author, Zev Chafets, shortly before his 72nd birthday. ‘The actuaries say I have six to eight years. The best tables give me 10. Three thousand days, more or less.’
He added: ‘I’d give anything for another 10 years.’
When asked if he was afraid to die, Ailes responded: ‘Because of my hemophilia, I’ve been prepared to face death all of my life. As a boy I spent a lot of time in hospitals.
‘My parents had to leave at the end of visiting hours, and I spent a lot of time just lying there in the dark, thinking about the fact that any accident could be dangerous or even fatal. So I’m ready.
‘Everybody fears the unknown. But I have a strong feeling there’s something bigger than us. I don’t think all this exists because some rocks happened to collide. I’m at peace. When it comes, I’ll be fine, calm. I’ll miss life, though. Especially my family.’
Ailes had hemophilia, multiple surgeries to replace his joints and a secret prostate surgery a few years ago that put him on an extended leave from the network, according to Sherman. Last year, Sherman reported that Ailes was still having trouble walking and rarely left his executive suite.
Ailes continued to foray into Republican politics for the rest of his career. In 1984, he helped on Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign and then aided his vice president, George H.W. Bush, get elected four years later.
Ailes was behind the now-famous ‘revolving door’ ad that Bush Sr. ran Michael Dukakis. The ad showed a stream of convicts walking in and out of a prison while a voice over details how Dukakis gave voted against the death penalty, vetoed mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers and gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers as governor of Massachusetts.
The advertisement turned the tide against Dukakis, with polling showing that Americans were convinced Bush was tougher on crime after the ad was released.
Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich says the ad really hurt their image, especially with women.
‘The symbolism was very powerful…you can’t find a stronger metaphor, intended or not, for racial hatred in this country than a black man raping a white woman….I talked to people afterward….Women said they couldn’t help it, but it scared the living daylights out of them,’ Estrich said.
There were even reports that he acted as a consultant on his friend Donald Trump’s campaign after resigning from the network last summer.