SPECIAL REPORT: Roger Ailes dead at 77; Fox in mourning; media world reacts; his complicated legacy; how he changed America; funeral plans


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SPECIAL EDITION

Roger Ailes, 1940-2017 

Fox News is in shock and in mourning. The media world is processing the complicated legacy of legendary executive Roger Ailes, who died Thursday morning at the age of 77.

He was brilliant, profane, charming, intimidating, innovative, grossly inappropriate…

Ailes was arguably the most powerful man in American media until he suddenly lost his job amid a sexual harassment scandal last summer. Ailes was bold, brilliant and charming — but also profane, intimidating and worse. He helped a lot of people. But he also hurt people. So this is a monumentally sad day for many folks at Fox — but also an emotional day for Ailes’ victims and opponents. 

He changed America

That was my initial reaction on CNN this morning: Ailes changed America. Whether you think he changed it for the better or the worse probably depends on your political persuasion. Thursday’s news coverage, so far, is rightfully incorporating the allegations against him, but also acknowledging his extraordinary accomplishments. This country and its media are different because of him. Scroll down for a wide variety of reactions from friends and foes…

Cause of death

The exact cause of death has not been released, but a family friend confirms that Ailes suffered a fall at his Palm Beach home on May 10.

WPTV in West Palm Beach reports: “A call to the Palm Beach Police Department indicated Ailes had accidentally fallen and injured his head. ‘There is serious bleeding … he is not completely alert,’ the 911 call said. It indicates Ailes ‘fell and hit his head’ at ground level and that he was conscious and breathing. The call came at 1:49 p.m.” 

The family friend told me that Ailes suffered complications after the fall, and eventually slipped into a coma. The family began to notify friends. Family members held out hope that he would recover until Thursday morning.

Private funeral for family only

According to Ailes’ lawyer Susan Estrich, the funeral will be private for family only. Perhaps a public memorial service later? Estrich said there will be an “appropriate tribute at a later date…”

Tributes expected in prime time tonight

It’s an incredibly busy news day on several fronts, but Fox’s prime time shows will acknowledge Ailes’ death on Thursday evening…

Murdoch’s statement

“Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes,” Rupert 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. Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have. In addition, Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs. At 21st Century Fox we will always be enormously grateful for the great business he built. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Elizabeth and son Zachary.”

Just yesterday…

Murdoch announced a newsroom renovation project that was seen internally as a break with the Ailes era. TheWrap reported that the project will “gut the entire floor of offices recently occupied by disgraced former CEO Roger Ailes…”
Quote of the day
“Television and I grew up together.”

–Ailes in his book “You Are The Message…”

Links to CNN’s full coverage of Ailes’ death

 — Our main obituary
 — How the media and political worlds reacted
 — What Fox News hosts and reporters said on the air
 — A timeline of the past ten months
Fox News in mourning

“His successes fueled his excesses”

David Folkenflik said it so well in this tweetstorm: “His successes fueled his excesses.”

Folkenflik added: “Just take a moment to think about the people who work at Fox News — so much scandal, so much tumult and churn…”

Somber reactions on Fox 

Ahiza Garcia emails: “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt appeared choked up as she discussed Ailes’ passing shortly before 9am. She was one of the few Fox personalities to hint at the sexual harassment allegations that resulted in his dismissal. (Ailes denied the allegations up until his death.) Earhardt said that Ailes “went out in such a sad way, but who doesn’t have sins,” before saying, “Roger, I will love you forever.”

Other Fox reporters and hosts highlighted Ailes’ genius and contributions to TV… and talked about how he supported their careers… There’s more in the full story…

“Shock” inside the newsroom

Oliver Darcy emails: The news of Ailes’ death reverberated throughout the newsroom. One longtime Fox employee described the newsroom as in “shock” — “No one saw this coming,” the person said. Another Fox employee said there were “many people tearing up” and that the workplace had a “very somber mood” filled with “lots of conflicted conversations.”

A “surreal” day 

More from Oliver: A senior Fox employee told me the network has gone through so much in the last year, this was just another punch in the gut. “This place has been beaten down so much, there’s a surreal factor today,” the person said. “It’s a factor of weird normalcy, and then you sit back and adjust, and it’s like, ‘Holy s**t. I can’t believe what has happened.'”

Howie Kurtz’s column

“There is no sugar-coating” the circumstances of Ailes’ exit last summer, Howard Kurtz wrote in this FoxNews.com column, but “it is important to balance his many accomplishments with the negative headlines that surrounded the end of his tenure…”

The federal investigation will continue

Gabriel Sherman tweets:Sources briefed on federal investigation of Fox News told me US Attorneys office says probe continues even after Ailes’s death…”

 >> Related: Alexander Nazaryan, writing for The Daily Beast, says Ailes “lives on in Trump, sexual harassment suits and alternative facts…”

Matt Drudge broke the news

Oliver Darcy emails: Matt Drudge broke the news of Ailes’ death with a siren-clad headline on his website: “ROGER AILES DEAD” The conservative news titan quickly updated his website with a statement from Ailes’ widow, Elizabeth. Was her decision to give Drudge the news before Fox a tacit dig at his former employers?

Drudge says Ailes “was excited for the future”

Oliver adds: Drudge eulogized Ailes in a pair of tweets, saying Ailes “brought news to life” and describing him as a “true American classic.” Drudge said he “spent [a] magical day” with Ailes last month in Palm Beach. “He loved life, country, Beth. News! We sat for 9 hours. He was excited for the future,” Drudge wrote…

Beth’s 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.” She encouraged people to donate in Ailes’ honor to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation…
How Ailes will be remembered

Bush: “He wasn’t perfect, but…”

Bush 41 tweeted: “He wasn’t perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend & I loved him. Not sure I would have been President w/o his great talent, loyal help. RIP.”

Bozell says “the good Roger did for America is immeasurable”

Media Research Center president Brent Bozell: “I’d like to offer my condolences to the wife and son of Roger Ailes. I knew Roger for over 30 years and from the start I was in awe of his talent. The Left would command a monopoly control of the so-called ‘news’ media but for the Fox News Channel, and FNC would not exist but for him. The good Roger did for America is immeasurable. May he rest in peace.”

Ailes “ushered in the post-truth society”

Jeffrey Jones, the director of the Peabody Awards, said in a statement, “No single individual has done more harm to American democracy in the last generation than Roger Ailes. He ushered in the post-truth society. Through a constant drumbeat of fear, anger, and hatred, he turned citizen-on-citizen. He helped craft an enormous gulf of distrust between people and news.”

“Ailes changed the fundamental nature of cable news”

Quoting David Folkenflik again: “Ailes changed the fundamental nature of cable news — he pulled it away from reporting, toward cheaper, ideologically charged contention… Ailes defined storylines with clearly identifiable heroes and villains, victims and saviors… not so much journalistic crusades as cultural obsessions…”

Ruddy: “I always believed he truly loved America”

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy: “Roger Ailes was a giant in the television news business and Republican politics. Several years ago a Newsmax magazine cover story described him as ‘the most powerful man in news.’ He was a pathfinder in opening up the media landscape to a diversity of viewpoints and he clearly laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s election. I always believed he truly loved America. Our condolences to his wife Beth and his son Zachary on his passing.”

More comments from conservative media heavyweights

 — Rush Limbaugh: “America needs many more like Roger Ailes, not less.”

 — Laura Ingraham: “Roger Ailes founded one of the most important and successful media outlets in American history. I will miss his friendship dearly. RIP.”

 — Glenn Beck: Ailes was one of the “biggest tutors in my life and one of the biggest disappointments in my life. Roger was a tremendous performer chameleon. He could be whoever he needed to be at the time, whoever he was around. He was a brilliant, brilliant man. And I truly believe, I could be wrong, because he was such a great performer, I truly believe I saw the best side of him. In private conversations, I really liked him. The side of him I saw, I really liked. The side of him I saw come out toward the end, I despised and couldn’t get away from fast enough.”

Sean Hannity: “Were it not for Roger Ailes, I would not be the person I am today… He forever changed the trajectory of thousands of peoples’ lives. In many ways he was like a second father after I lost my father 6 months after I started at FNC in 3/97. I am forever grateful.”

How Ailes paved the way for Trump

A senior Fox staffer commented to me that Ailes understood Donald Trump’s base long before Trump did. It’s true — Ailes was programming for the “Trump voter” years before Trump ever ran for president. Ailes paved the way for President Trump.

 >> Related: Read Chris Cillizza on “how Roger Ailes helped create Donald Trump” and Julian Zelizer on “how Ailes changed the media — and America…”

Ailes’ dark side 

Some standout tweets from the past six hours:

Tina Brown: “Ailes was an extraordinary producer and one of the best raconteurs ever. Awful harassment revelations not only way to remember him.

Kurt Andersen, responding to Brown: “Actually, the way I’ll always remember him is when threatened to have a CNBC camera crew follow my daughers, 4 & 6, home from school.”

 — Julia Angwin: “Roger Ailes once threatened me that he had the rest of his life to get back at me for an article I wrote. Looks like he ran out of time.”

Sally Kohn: “RIP Roger Ailes, who always told me I have pretty eyes. Often.” 

Lisa Bloom: “Roger Ailes has died. Let all his victims now be ungagged for the true, full reckoning of his life. And give them back their jobs.”

The obits read very differently than they would have one year ago

Brian Lowry emails: In the how-the-sausage-gets-made department, there were rumors that Ailes was in ill health before I left Variety a year ago, which explains why I share a byline on his obituary, having updated an existing advance obit. At that point, his hold on the network appeared impregnable, and the assumption was that he would die while still at Fox News. It reads much differently now, as I suspect all of the advance obituaries written about Ailes do.

 — Lowry adds: One thought, too, about that Variety obit: Some of the gloating, dancing-on-his-grave comments being posted make a pretty good case for turning off comments in the obituaries of controversial figures…

What’s next for Fox?

The network is much bigger than any individual. But the ten months since Ailes’ sudden ouster have been incredibly stressful for the organization. Erik Wemple argues in this blog post that Ailes is leaving behind “a much-diminished Fox News…”

THURSDAY’S OTHER NEWS…

The news-hurricane continues

There’s been a new U.S. airstrike in Syria… an awful car crash in Times Square… and there are so many other big stories.

The aftershocks from Robert Mueller‘s appointment continue… Trump is close to picking a new FBI director… Reuters reports that Michael Flynn and other Trump advisors were in communication with the Kremlin in at least 18 instances during the last seven months of the campaign… Politico says Jason Chaffetz is expected to announce his resignation before the end of the term… The NYT says advisors are urging Trump to hire an outside lawyer… and now the president is about to hold a press conference…

Trump and the media

“Trump weighs downsizing Spicer’s public role”

Josh Dawsey and Annie Karni‘s Thursday morning scoop: “Trump is considering scaling back White House press secretary Sean Spicer‘s public role, according to several officials familiar with the president’s thinking, as Trump also weighs a broader shakeup of his communications shop.” Spicer “is no longer expected to do a daily, on-camera briefing after Trump’s foreign trip, which begins Friday, the officials said…

Is the White House really going to scale back on daily briefings?

As NYMag’s Olivia Nuzzi tweeted, the aforementioned Politico story “is going to get lost in all the news today, but it’s a huge and frightening development…”

Time’s Kremlin cover

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: Time’s new cover is making waves on Twitter, and so is the story attached to it:

“In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as Secretary of State. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election. What the officer didn’t know, senior intelligence officials tell TIME, was that U.S. spies were listening. They wrote up the conversation and sent it back to analysts at headquarters, who turned it from raw intelligence into an official report and circulated it. But if the officer’s boast seems like a red flag now, at the time U.S. officials didn’t know what to make of it…”

BuzzFeed wants “official communications related to Trump’s tweets”

Oliver Darcy emails: BuzzFeed filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the Department of Justice today asking for official communications related to Trump’s tweets. “As the Department of Justice itself has acknowledged, there are ‘hundreds’ of official communications related to the President’s tweets, including the claim that President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said. “Given the magnitude and clear public interest of this and other allegations, we believe that the Trump administration is legally obligated to turn over these records.” Read the full lawsuit here…

TV UPFRONT WEEK

Lowry’s end-of-the-week analysis

Brian Lowry emails: Those waiting for the fast-shifting digital tide and the political currents that swept in Donald Trump to influence TV programming didn’t see much evidence of it in the lineups announced this week by the major networks. Read Lowry’s full column here >>>

WE’LL BE BACK WITH OUR REGULAR NIGHTLY NEWSLETTER LATER TODAY…

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