Fox News confirmed Ailes died Thursday morning, three days after his 77th birthday. He was known to have battled health problems in recent years.
In a statement, Ailes’ wife Elizabeth called her husband “a patriot who was profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise and to give back.”
A master of communication, Ailes represented the convergence of television and politics. With the determination of a pit bull, he helped shape public opinion, first as an adviser to presidential candidates Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush and, later, as a television news executive: The founder and president of Fox News Channel turned it into a franchise with a vast footprint in politics as well as television.
The underdog news operation took on category leader CNN, eclipsing the channel in the ratings with a lineup of opinion-oriented talk hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and largely maintained its stability while the competition underwent change after change.
Ailes also established a famously hard-charging culture at Fox News. He was known for his bare-knuckle approach to dealing with competitors and those who he saw as adversaries. Just last month, Ailes’ longtime star anchor, Bill O’Reilly, was also forced out of Fox News after 21 years because of a cascade of sexual harassment allegations.
Never one to mince words, Ailes had an uncanny ability to discern what the public wanted, which served him well both in politics and business.