Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who changed American politics by injecting right-wing conservatism into cable news (and vice versa), has died at 77.
The news was announced by his family; no cause of death has been reported. Citing two sources, New York Magazine national affairs editor Gabriel Sherman writes on Twitter that Ailes fell last week in Palm Beach, Florida, and suffered complications from a blood clot.
Ailes was forced out at Fox last year, amid allegations that he had sexually harassed and retaliated against women at the network for decades. Donald Trump, who was the Republican presidential nominee at the time, came to Ailes' defense, describing it as "very sad" that multiple victims were "saying these horrible things" about the media mogul.
Trump was not the only GOP president to enjoy a relationship with Ailes, who also served as adviser to George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon. For the latter, CNN reports, Ailes "prepared a 300-page memo titled, 'A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News'."
In the 1960s & 1970s Roger Ailes and Richard Nixon plotted to implement what they called “A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News." It worked. pic.twitter.com/8K20hjaJML— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) May 18, 2017
As the New York Times wrote in a profile published upon Ailes' 2016 resignation from Fox:
With Fox News, Mr. Ailes introduced a brash, point-of-view-based style that influences much of today's media. But the closest comparison for him might be less CNN's Ted Turner than someone like J. Edgar Hoover: a power behind the power, unelected but mighty, outliving administrations and the ebbs and flows of elections, ruling by force and fear.
[...] Ailes also shaped TV news in the way that his TV-bred generation shaped politics. It was a revolution of tone, production style, and manners as much as ideology.
Politics and media of the midcentury, pre-cable era were shaped by norms of tone and content. You respected certain codes of gravitas. You practiced professional dispassion. You might chase ratings, but you recognized an interest in appearing like something other than entertainment. Even CNN, which shook up the broadcast news paradigm, featured stately battleships of dignity like Bernard Shaw.
The idea of Fox News, journalistically and aesthetically, was: screw the norms. What if we just get right up in your face?
Ailes' abundant critics minced no words online:
Ailes made the world an uglier, stupider, more brutal place. He forced women to have sex with him and ruined their careers if they refused.— Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) May 18, 2017
Roger Ailes has died. Wow. Sending deep and heartfelt condolences to everyone who was abused, harassed, exploited, and unjustly fired by him— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 18, 2017
"Ailes' legacy" obstructed SCOTUS, coal in rivers, ICE raids, Muslim ban, renewed drug war, safety nets stripped, VRA gutted, predator in WH— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) May 18, 2017
More seriously, Ailes was, along with Murdoch & Gingrich, one of top 3 people involved in most poisoning American society in last 30 years— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) May 18, 2017
American politics would have been infinitely better off had Roger Ailes gone to barber college.— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) May 18, 2017
Ailes built an empire by creating a fantasy world for white, conservative men, where women are agreeable sex objects and POC are predators.— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) May 18, 2017
Just because he's dead doesn't mean you have to say something nice about him. Would he give you the same break?— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) May 18, 2017