The death of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, a man who fundamentally reshaped cable news, sent shockwaves throughout the media world Thursday morning.
As the longtime chairman and CEO of Fox News, Ailes profoundly changed the media landscape throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Brash, unapologetic conservative anchors like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity rose to national prominence under Ailes, reshaping the way millions of Americans receive their news.
He leaves behind a legacy that’s as polarizing as it is significant. His supporters say Fox News provided a much-needed outlet for conservative thought in a media world dominated by left-leaning outlets. His detractors accuse Fox News of further deepening the left-right divide in the U.S., and of appealing to emotions rather than facts.
Ailes resigned following a string of sexual assault allegations in late 2016. His legacy was complicated, and in death, as in life, he elicited a wide range of reactions.
In a series of tweets, Hannity paid tribute to his former boss.
“Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors. Roger Ailes. For Decades RA’s has impacted American politics and media,” he wrote. “He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better.”
Hannity called Ailes “a true American original” and said few people will have as big an impact on their country as Ailes had on the United States. The newsman, Hannity said, was a great strategist, always five steps ahead of his opponents — playing chess while they were busy with checkers.
“On a personal note, were it not for Roger Ailes, I would not be the person I am today,” Hannity said. “In 1996 he took a huge risk on an inexperienced, young, local radio talk show host in Atlanta. To this day I have no earthly idea why I was hired and not fired early on, as I had little television experience when I was hired by FNC, as old tapes humbly remind me. He saw something in me and many others he hired that we never saw in ourselves, and he forever changed the trajectory of thousands of peoples lives.”
Hannity said he saw Ailes as a second father after he started working at Fox News Channel in March 1997. He recalled Ailes’ “endless enthusiasm, energy, wit, humor and raw instinctive intelligence.”
Many other conservatives also took to Twitter to honor the newsman.
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.
— George Bush (@GeorgeHWBush) May 18, 2017
Wow, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is dead. So sad. #RIP
— Makada ???????? (@_Makada_) May 18, 2017
Roger Ailes died this morning, our deepest sympathies to Beth and his son Zach. Roger was a media genius, good friend and great American.
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) May 18, 2017
Roger Ailes founded one of the most important and successful media outlets in American history. I will miss his friendship dearly. RIP.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 18, 2017
OMG #RogerAiles is gone, devastating news, & Erica & I send our condolences to Beth, their son Zack & the entire family. He was a great man
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) May 18, 2017
But not everyone’s thoughts about Ailes were warm. Plenty of liberals made it resoundingly clear that they would not feign respect for him, even upon news of his death, citing his politics and allegations of sexual harassment.
A Fox News employee who'd been sexually harassed by Ailes said this morning, "Justice."
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) 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
Roger Ailes has died. Another proud Confederate monument taken down this week. Smdh.
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) May 18, 2017
Roger Ailes couldn't roam the halls of Fox News sexually harrassing chicks anymore so he had nothing to live for.
— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) May 18, 2017
What did Roger Ailes die of, aside from perfect timing
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) May 18, 2017
Few people have done more to hurt this country than Roger Ailes. He vilified minorities, degraded women, and destroyed so many families.
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) May 18, 2017
No tears for Roger Ailes. Described as a "genius," he was really a schoolyard bully who preyed on people's fears and worst instincts
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) May 18, 2017
Hannity anticipated this kind of reaction and said it would “be nice if the media would leave Roger and his family alone in their time of grief.” He said that “all have sinned and fallen short” and suggested Ailes’ critics should remember what Jesus said about casting the first stone.
Ailes’ wife, Elizabeth, shared the following statement with the Drudge Report:
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. 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. During a career that stretched over more than five decades, his work in entertainment, in politics, and in news affected the lives of many millions. And so even as we mourn his death, we celebrate his life…”
While reporting on his passing, “Fox & Friends” anchor Ainsley Earhardt said, “Beth, you’re in our thoughts and our prayers and so is Zachary, their beautiful son. Roger, rest in peace.”
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