Roger Ailes, the bombastic and controversial founder and CEO of Fox News ousted last year in a sexual harassment scandal, has died.
Ailes, who reshaped television news over five decades in the TV and entertainment industry, was 77. His death was announced in a statement by his wife, Elizabeth Ailes, according to Fox News.
"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," she said. She called him "a loving husband" and "patriot."
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office later said Ailes died of bleeding on the brain caused by fall a at his home.
Ailes, who recently purchased a $36 million mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., apparently hit his head after falling in the bathroom of the residence on May 10, according to a Palm Beach police event report.
The unidentified 911 caller told the dispatcher at 1:49 p.m. that the victim, identified only as a 77-year-old male, suffered "serious bleeding” and that the fall was "accidental." The report quotes the caller as saying that the victim was suffering "serious bleeding" and "is not completely alert."
News of Ailes' death prompted widespread expressions of shock and grief from numerous political, entertainment and media figures.
Former President George H. W. Bush tweeted: "He wasn't perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend & I loved him. Not sure I would have been President w/o his great talent, loyal help. RIP."
Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman for 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, called Ailes a "great patriot" and said everyone at the news channel is "shocked and grieved" by his death.
"A brilliant broadcaster, Roger played a huge role in shaping America’s media over the last thirty years," Murdoch said in a statement. "He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted."
In a series of messages, Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted tributes to his onetime boss, saying he was "like a second father."
"Today, America lost one of its great patriotic warriors," Hannity said on Twitter. "He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape, single-handedly for the better."
Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, looking shaken, announced Ailes' death to his audience, ending his brief report by saying, softly, "Wow!"
Ailes resigned July 21 following a storm over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson. The suit triggered similar claims from other women and an in-house investigation at Fox.
Ailes strongly denied the claims, but stepped down with a $40 million severance package.
Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a biography on Ailes entitled The Loudest Voice in the Room, called his "last chapter" a tragic story, "whatever you think of Roger Ailes."
"It is a tragic, sad morning," Sherman told MSNBC on Thursday. "After all he built in his career, he for all practical purposes died alone."
In a statement announcing Ailes' departure last year, Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, praised Ailes for his "remarkable contribution" to the company and said he "shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years."
Ailes began his television career in the early 1960s as a producer at The Mike Douglas Show in Cleveland, and went onto serve as media consultant for several Republican presidents, including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
In recent years, he began an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, even sitting in on debate prep for the candidate during his 2016 campaign.
In 1996, Murdoch, seeing a market for a conservative cable news outlet, hired Ailes to create Fox News. Ailes molded the network to run like a political campaign operation, with primetime shows that were unabashedly conservative and hosts who openly espoused Republican talking points. The network eventually unseated CNN as the highest-rated cable news network and became one of the most popular cable networks of all genres, reaching more than 90 million households.
The crowning achievement, however, was sullied in his final months by the charges of sexual misconduct. Twenty-First Century Fox noted in a recent quarterly report that it paid $45 million in settlements related to sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.
Carlson alleged at least six conditions in which Ailes referred to her body, intimidated her or used demeaning language. At least a half-dozen other women, including former Fox News star Megyn Kelly, came forward to accuse Ailes, who denied wrongdoing.
A miniseries about Ailes, titled Secure and Hold: The Last Days of Roger Ailes, was already in the works at Showtime, based in part of Sherman's book.
© 2017 USATODAY.COM