Politics ROGER AILES: How a small-town TV producer became one of the most controversial media powerhouses in America

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The founder of Fox News died unexpectedly on Thursday.

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(Fox News)
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The former CEO and chairman of Fox News died unexpectedly on Thursday.

He led a long and controversial career in conservative politics and media, ultimately building the most watched cable-news network in America.

Here's how it all happened.

Roger Ailes died Thursday at 77. He spent more than two decades at the helm of Fox News before leaving in the midst of controversy.

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(Fox News)

Source: Business Insider



Ailes was born in the small factory town of Warren, Ohio, in 1940. Growing up, he had an abusive father and suffered from hemophilia.

Roger Ailes' high-school senior yearbook photo. play

Roger Ailes' high-school senior yearbook photo.

(Warren High School Yearbook)

Source: The New Yorker



After high school, Ailes enrolled at Ohio University, where he studied journalism and worked at his college radio station.

After high school, Ailes enrolled at Ohio University, where he studied journalism and worked at his college radio station. play

After high school, Ailes enrolled at Ohio University, where he studied journalism and worked at his college radio station.

(Ohio University)

Source: The New Yorker



After college, Ailes worked various jobs for TV studios in Cleveland. He eventually rose to be the executive producer of the popular "Mike Douglas Show."

Ailes in his office in New York on May 18, 1971. play

Ailes in his office in New York on May 18, 1971.

(Jerry Mosey/Associated Press)

Source: Britannica



When Richard Nixon appeared as a guest on "The Mike Douglas Show" in 1967, he and Ailes got into a heated discussion about politics. Nixon then invited Ailes to be a media adviser for his presidential campaign.

The Mike Douglas Show ran from 1961 to 1981. play

The Mike Douglas Show ran from 1961 to 1981.

(YouTube Screenshot (Frank Rains Jr))

Source: Britannica



Over the years, Ailes has advised numerous Republican presidents on how to navigate questions from journalists. After Nixon, Ailes gave media tips to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Vice President George H.W. Bush, left, getting some advice from Ailes, right, then his media adviser, at the Superdome in New Orleans. play

Vice President George H.W. Bush, left, getting some advice from Ailes, right, then his media adviser, at the Superdome in New Orleans.

(Ron Edmonds (Associated Press))

Source: Politico



Throughout his career as a political adviser, Ailes would try to fight what he saw as extreme liberal bias in the mainstream media. He wanted Republican candidates to counterbalance the news with conservative interpretations.

Ailes at the Radio 7 TV News Directors conference in New York City on October 13, 1989. play

Ailes at the Radio 7 TV News Directors conference in New York City on October 13, 1989.

(Marty Lederhandler (Associated Press))

Source: Politico



In 1988, Ailes crafted an attack ad that is credited with turning the presidential election in George H.W. Bush's favor. The ad shows men walking in and out of a revolving prison door as a narrator accuses Bush's Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, of being soft on crime.

George and Barbara Bush in 2000. play

George and Barbara Bush in 2000.

(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)



After failing to get Republican candidate Richard Thornburgh elected to the Senate in 1991, Ailes went back to cable news. In 1993, he was tapped to lead CNBC.

Ailes backstage at the debate between then-New York mayoral candidates David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani in New York on November 4, 1989. play

Ailes backstage at the debate between then-New York mayoral candidates David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani in New York on November 4, 1989.

(Peter Morgan (Associated Press))

Source: CNBC



By then, Ailes was widely known as a far-right media powerhouse. In 1996, media mogul Rupert Murdoch asked Ailes to become the founding CEO of the new conservative network Fox News.

Ailes with reporter Dick Oliver of "Good Day New York" outside the Fox News headquarters in New York on September 15, 1997. play

Ailes with reporter Dick Oliver of "Good Day New York" outside the Fox News headquarters in New York on September 15, 1997.

(Marion Curtis (Associated Press))

Source: CNBC



In January 2002, just over five years after Fox News' start, its ratings surpassed those of its rival CNN. In 2016, it became the most watched cable network, including entertainment and sports channels.

Ailes at Fox News in New York on September 29, 2006. play

Ailes at Fox News in New York on September 29, 2006.

(Jim Cooper (Associated Press))

Source: The New York Times and The Hill



In 1998, Ailes married his third wife, CNBC program director Elizabeth Tilson, and in 2000 he became a father for the first time at almost 60 years old. Ailes was married to Marjorie White for 17 years and to Norma Ferrer for 14 years.

Ailes with his wife, Elizabeth, second from left, and son, Zachary. play

Ailes with his wife, Elizabeth, second from left, and son, Zachary.

(Donald Bowers/Getty Images)


Under the slogan "Fair and Balanced," Fox News developed straight news reporting, albeit often told with a conservative slant, and featuring right-wing evening show hosts, including Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Many credit the network with popularizing conservative political ideology and fueling the rise of President Donald Trump. In his New York Times obituary of Ailes, journalist Clyde Haberman called Hannity's show "effectively a public-relations vehicle" for Trump.

Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly at a baseball game in 2012. play

Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly at a baseball game in 2012.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Source: The New York Times



Over the past two decades, Fox grew to dominate political news coverage. It provided critical coverage of President Bill Clinton's sex scandals, promotion of the Iraq War under President George Bush, and a platform for critics of President Barack Obama.

Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace hosting a presidential debate in 2016. play

Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace hosting a presidential debate in 2016.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)


On July 6, 2016, Gretchen Carlson, a prominent former Fox News anchor, brought a sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes, claiming that her contract at Fox was not renewed in part because she refused sexual advances by Ailes. Carlson also said her Fox cohost, Steve Doocy, treated her "in a sexist and condescending way."

Gretchen Carlson. play

Gretchen Carlson.

(Rich Polk/Getty Images)

Source: The Associated Press



Ailes rejected Carlson's allegations, saying they were "wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously." Ailes also argued that Carlson's lawsuit was "conveniently" filed after she was let go from Fox, implying the suit was retaliation.

Ailes rejected Carlson's allegations, saying they were "wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously." Ailes also argued that Carlson's lawsuit was "conveniently" filed after she was let go from Fox, implying the suit was retaliation. play

Ailes rejected Carlson's allegations, saying they were "wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously." Ailes also argued that Carlson's lawsuit was "conveniently" filed after she was let go from Fox, implying the suit was retaliation.

(Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Source: The Associated Press



But following Carlson's suit, more than 20 women came forward, most anonymously, saying Ailes also sexually harassed them. The most prominent among these women was Megyn Kelly, then one of Fox News' most popular anchors, who told investigators that Ailes made sexual advances toward her, according to sources who spoke with New York magazine.

Megyn Kelly play

Megyn Kelly

(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Source: Business Insider and New York magazine



On July 11, 21st Century Fox, Fox News' parent company, announced it had hired the corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Ailes.

On July 11, 21st Century Fox, Fox News' parent company, announced it had hired the corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Ailes. play

On July 11, 21st Century Fox, Fox News' parent company, announced it had hired the corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Ailes.

(Eduardo Munoz/Getty Images)

Source: Business Insider



On July 21, Rupert Murdoch announced that Ailes was out at Fox News. Ailes left with a $40 million severance package from Fox. Murdoch praised Ailes in a statement, calling his contribution to Fox "remarkable."

On July 21, Rupert Murdoch announced that Ailes was out at Fox News. Ailes left with a $40 million severance package from Fox. Murdoch praised Ailes in a statement, calling his contribution to Fox "remarkable." play

On July 21, Rupert Murdoch announced that Ailes was out at Fox News. Ailes left with a $40 million severance package from Fox. Murdoch praised Ailes in a statement, calling his contribution to Fox "remarkable."

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Source: Business Insider



In September 2016, 21st Century Fox reached a $20 million settlement with Gretchen Carlson as well as a "handful" of other settlements with women who accused Ailes of sexual harassment.

Gretchen Carlson play

Gretchen Carlson

(Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Source: Business Insider and CNN



In August 2016, The New York Times reported that Ailes was advising Donald Trump on the presidential debates. Trump said the advising was "not a formal thing." In October 2016, Vanity Fair reported that Trump and Ailes were no longer speaking.

Donald Trump play

Donald Trump

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Source: The New York Times and Vanity Fair



On May 18, Roger Ailes' wife, Elizabeth Ailes, announced her husband died that morning. "I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," she wrote in a statement. "Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many."

Fox News headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday. play

Fox News headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Source: New York Daily News