Roger Ailes, a former U.S. presidential adviser who started the Fox News Channel to promote a Republican agenda and built it into the most-watched U.S. cable news network before resigning amid sexual harassment allegations, has died. He was 77.
Ailes started Fox News in 1996 at the behest of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch as an alternative to what they saw as a media landscape dominated by liberals. Although marketed as “fair and balanced,” critics of the conservative content of the channel’s programs accused it of acting as a propaganda arm of the Republican Party.
One reason: An Ailes deputy sent reporters and news show hosts memos stating what the message of the day should be. The notes directed positive coverage for Republican politicians and negative news about Democrats.
In July 2016, Ailes was ousted as head of Fox News after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson, who claimed she was fired for refusing his sexual advances. Ailes said Carlson’s allegations were false and her lawsuit was in retaliation for the network’s decision not to renew her contract because her “low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup.”
Carlson left the network and received a $20 million settlement from Fox several months later. Her accusations were followed by claims of harassment from other women, including Fox News host Andrea Tantaros. The scandal also engulfed one of the network’s biggest stars, Megyn Kelly, who said that Ailes harassed her. Kelly left the network in early 2017.