Roger Ailes died Thursday, Fox News reported. He was 77.
His wife, Elizabeth Ailes, said in a statement, "I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning surrounded by his beautiful family. Roger was my best friend, the most wonderful loving husband and father to our son Zachary. He was a loyal friend to so many."
She added, "Roger was a patriot, 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. Finally, at this time of sorrow and grief we ask you to respect our privacy."
A former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, Ailes later turned his media savvy to running TV networks. In early 1996, he accepted a challenge from media titan Rupert Murdoch to build a news network from scratch to compete with CNN.
That October, Ailes flipped the switch on Fox News Channel. It 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.
He was abruptly dismissed from Fox News in July 2016 in the wake of a lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson accusing Ailes of sexual improprieties.