Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a powerhouse, dies at 77

PASADENA, CA - JULY 24: Chairman & CEO, FOX News Roger Ailes from 'Fox News' speaks onstage during the 2006 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour for the FOX Broadcasting Company at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel on July 24, 2006 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

NEW YORK  — Roger Ailes, who transformed cable news and then American politics by building Fox News into a ratings powerhouse, died Thursday. He was 77.

The death was announced by his family and reported on Fox News Channel.

“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” his wife, Elizabeth, said in a statement. “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.”

Palm Beach police are reporting Ailes fell, hit his head and was seriously bleeding eight days before death.

Ailes started Fox News almost from scratch in 1996 and built it into not just a cable news ratings leader but a profound influence on the right wing of American politics.

Ailes was arguably the most powerful man in media when he suddenly lost his job last summer. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox anchor, sued him for sexual harassment, and other women came forward to support her claims. Ailes resigned July 21.

Long before Fox News, Ailes was a Republican operative who saw long before most what television could do for the party.

As an aide to President Richard Nixon in 1970, he prepared a 300-page memo titled, “A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News.”

“Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication,” the memo read. “The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit — watch — listen. The thinking is done for you.”