NEW YORK, USA (AP) — Roger Ailes, the communication maestro who transformed TV news by creating Fox News Channel only to be ousted from his media empire at the height of his reign for alleged sexual harassment, died yesterday, according to his wife, Elizabeth Ailes. He was 77.A former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush and a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump, Ailes also created a TV network that changed the face of 24-hour news. In early 1996, he accepted a challenge from media titan Rupert Murdoch to build a news network from scratch to compete with CNN and other TV outlets they deemed left-leaning.
That October, Ailes flipped the switch on Fox News Channel, which within a few years became the audience leader in cable news. It also emerged as a powerful force on the political scene while the feisty, hard-charging Ailes swatted off criticism that the network he branded as “Fair and Balanced” had a conservative tilt, declaring he had left the political world behind.
By mid-2016 Ailes still ruled supreme as he prepared to celebrate Fox News’ 20th anniversary.
But in little more than two weeks, both his legacy and job unravelled following allegations by a former anchor that he had forced her out of Fox News after she spurned his sexual advances. The lawsuit filed on July 6 by Gretchen Carlson quickly triggered accounts from more than 20 women with similar stories of alleged harassment by Ailes either against themselves or someone they knew.
Reportedly, a key witness was Megyn Kelly, the network’s superstar personality, whose voice was conspicuously missing in the chorus of women and men at Fox News who spoke up on behalf of Ailes. Their defence did little to staunch the widening scandal. Despite Ailes’ staunch denials, 21st Century Fox corporate head Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, determined that Ailes had to go. The announcement was made on July 21.
Rumours of sexual improprieties at Fox News and by Ailes in particular weren’t new. Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 Ailes biography, The Loudest Voice in the Room, reported numerous unflattering anecdotes, including an allegation (denied by Ailes) that he offered one female employee extra money if she would have sex with him.