Shared from the 2017-05-19 Chattanooga eEdition

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Media guru Roger Ailes dies at 77

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Roger Ailes

NEW YORK — Roger Ailes, the communications 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 Thursday, according to his wife, Elizabeth Ailes. He was 77.

Ailes died after a fall at his Palm Beach, Fla., home on May 10 caused bleeding on the brain, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

A former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and a onetime 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.

“He wasn’t perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend & I loved him. Not sure I would have been President w/o his great talent, loyal help. RIP,” tweeted Bush.

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 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 unraveled following allegations by former anchor Gretchen Carlson that he had forced her out of Fox News after she spurned his sexual advances. The lawsuit quickly triggered accounts from more than 20 women with similar stories.

Despite Ailes’ staunch denials, 21st Century Fox corporate head Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, determined Ailes had to go. The announcement was made on July 21.

Before Carlson’s bombshell legal action, Fox’s roaring success and enormous earnings (with some estimates it accounted for nearly a quarter of the parent company’s profits) insulated Ailes from any suspicion as well as from his past scrapes with the Murdoch sons over whom he would report to.

His dismissal was a head-spinning downfall and a breathtaking defeat for Ailes, a man who all his life seemed to be spoiling for a fight and was used to winning them.

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