Well, Fox News got the full scoop on this one. Former CEO Roger Ailes’ death at 77 was announced by his family and reported on his old network. There was no information on a cause of death.
Ailes built the Fox News Channel into a “ratings powerhouse,” says CNN, and transformed cable news and right-wing American politics along the way.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” his wife Elizabeth Ailes said in a statement that first appeared on the Drudge Report Thursday.
Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, who granted Ailes unprecedented autonomy in shaping Fox News over the years, had this to say, “Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have.”
Ailes made a career out of aiding and abetting Republican presidents, starting with Richard M. Nixon, who, according to David Greenberg in The New York Times taught. Ailes “the political power of popular resentment against a liberal cultural elite.” As the head of Fox, Ailes relentlessly exploited Americans cultural and economic anxieties and made attacking liberals and the media as dangerous, out-of-touch elites part of a successful business model.
Despite its well-known slogan, “Fair & Balanced,” Fox News became known for exclusively promoting Republican candidates and policies while Fox hosts endlessly carried on about so-called “liberal bias” in the “mainstream media.”
However, not everyone thinks Ailes deserves accolades, even in death. Noting the thousands, if not millions of people on Twitter gloating about his death, Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone denounced “the Christopher Colunbus of hate” and his dubious accomplishments, naming him one of the “people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.”
“When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other,” Taibbi eulogized.
Nevertheless, the most powerful man in media, Ailes was suddenly forced to resign last summer just two weeks after former Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, sued Ailes for sexual harassment. Carlson settled with 21st Century Fox for a cool $20 million, and Ailes got the boot as more and more women at Fox began to come forward with similar allegations.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice, according to CNN, has opened an investigation into whether Fox News was forthcoming with its shareholders about settlement payments to other employees who had accused Ailes of sexual harassment. What a legacy.