Roger Ailes, former Fox News CEO, died Thursday at age 77, according to his wife Elizabeth Ailes.
She said, "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."
Ailes grew the network to profound influence among right-wing audiences.
But many other have found his Fox News growth strategy troubling during a time when use of the term fake news is on the rise. In 2016, Sojourners contributor and academic Danny Duncan Collum said, “Ailes helped give us a world in which people are entitled not just to their own opinion, but to their own facts,” by creating the Fox News we know today.
In 1996, Rupert Murdoch made Ailes CEO of his new 24-hour news channel, and the rest is history. As exhaustively detailed in the 2004 documentary Outfoxed, Fox looked and sounded like a news channel. But if you actually paid attention, stories were presented with a right-wing spin and most panels were stacked against the token “liberal” participants. The channel created a distorted version of reality that quickly became the new normal for millions of Americans. Fox’s mind-numbing array of fast-moving graphics, multiple news crawls, blaring music, screaming heads, and mini-skirted blonde anchorwomen became a permanent backdrop in American living rooms, and even unavoidable in many public places. For instance, it’s always on at my local McDonald’s.
Ailes left his role at Fox News last July following allegations of sexual harrassment by several women. The allegations were spurred by former anchor Gretchen Carlson who sued Ailes claiming that she was fired for refusing his sexual advances. A number of other women stepped forward and made similar accusations after her.
Ailes resigned in July 2016 after 20 years of being an executive at the news network. He also served as President Richard Nixon’s media advisor in 1968 — creating false town halls for Nixon’s campaign with scripted questions and carefully selected audiences — and also helped with debate prep for President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Reuters reporting contributed to this story.