Roger Ailes, the bombastic and controversial founder and CEO of Fox News who was ousted last year in a sexual harassment scandal, has died, Fox News reported Thursday.
Ailes, who reshaped television news over five decades in the TV and entertainment industry, was 77.
Internet news site The Drudge Report posted an alert at about 8:30 Thursday morning with a statement from Ailes' wife Elizabeth:
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...
"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 cause of death was not immediately clear.
While Fox News on Twitter was quick to issue a report of Ailes' death, the Fox News cable channel was slower to broadcast the surprising news.
At 9 a.m., at least a half hour after the news broke on most outlets, Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, looking shaken, reported 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 multi-million dollar package from Fox.
Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a biography of Ailes entitled The Loudest Voice in the Room, called Ailes' "last chapter" a tragic story, "whatever you think of Roger Ailes."
"It is a "tragic, sad morning," Sherman tells MSNBC. "After all he built in his career, he for all practical purposes died alone."
His departure from the cable network was announced by 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, in a statement by Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman.
He 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."
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