Roger Ailes, former Fox News chief, dead at 77

Last Updated May 18, 2017 8:58 PM EDT

Former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes has died, his wife said in a statement Thursday morning.

"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," Elizabeth Ailes said. "Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many."

Ailes was 77. Fox News confirmed Ailes' death Thursday morning. Doctors say he had a brain hemorrhage after falling last week.

The founder of Fox News and longtime Republican political operative had a profound influence on American life, building Fox News into a powerhouse that transformed the media landscape and conservative politics.

Ailes was forced to resign from Fox News in July 2016 in the wake of sexual harassment allegations leveled by former employees.

For decades, Ailes worked as a media consultant for Republican politicians, serving as an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was close with President Trump, helping Mr. Trump prepare for debates during the 2016 campaign after his ouster from Fox News.

Ailes was tapped by media titan Rupert Murdoch to found Fox News in 1996, building the network into the highest-rated cable news channel on television. Over two decades, Ailes turned Fox into an incredibly lucrative media property, making billions in profits for its parent company.

Murdoch called Ailes "a great patriot" in a statement Thursday.

"Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes," Murdoch said. "A brilliant broadcaster, Roger played a huge role in shaping America's media over the last thirty years. He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted."

Ailes' resignation in 2016 was a shocking fall from grace. Lawsuits filed by former hosts Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros alleged Ailes created a toxic culture at the network where sexual harassment was permitted. Carlson said she was fired for refusing Ailes' sexual advancements, and Tantaros alleged Fox News was "steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny."

Ailes denied the sexual harassment allegations but was forced to resign in the wake of the lawsuits. Carlson reached a $20 million settlement with parent company 21st Century Fox in September 2016. The company apologized to Carlson, saying she "was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve."

At least six other women have come forward with allegations against Ailes and top Fox News executives. Longtime host Bill O'Reilly, who was one of Ailes' earliest hires at the network, was forced to resign after settlements totaling millions of dollars came to light in April.

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Roger Ailes seen in New York City on April 11, 2012.

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