Media Reacts to Roger Ailes' Death

Sean Hannity tweeted a lengthy tribute to the former Fox News chief.

Media was abuzz in reaction to Thursday's announcement of the death of Roger Ailes, the polarizing founding CEO of the Fox News Channel. He was 77. Ailes had resigned as CEO of Fox News in the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations last summer.

"Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes," Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and Fox News Channel, said in a statement. "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."

Fox News' Sean Hannity and Bret Baier were among some of the first to react to the news on social media. "Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors," began Hannity in a series of tweets about his former boss. "He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better. Neither will ever be the same again as he was a true American original."

He continued, "On a personal note, were it not for Roger Ailes, I would not be the person I am today. In 1996 he took a huge risk on an inexperienced, young, local radio talk show host in Atlanta. To this day I have no earthly idea why I was hired and not fired early on, as I had little television experience when I was hired by FNC, as old tapes humbly remind me. He saw something in me and many others he hired that we never saw in ourselves, and 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."

The Hannity host then added that it "would be nice if the media would leave Roger and his family alone in their time of grief, but knowing people that hated him and his politics, and those that forget 'all have sinned and fallen short' and 'cast the first stone' I doubt that will happen." He continued, "But to his enemies know this; I say ADVANTAGE ROGER, In his mind he just has a head start in preparing to kick your ass in the next life."

On air later in the day, Hannity continued: "Roger's impact on American politics and American media is unmatched. There are few people in this world who will ever have such a profound impact than Roger did. Speaking to Ailes' and Fox News' "enemies," Hannity added: "In the next life, he's plotting and planning how to kick your ass there like he did here. I would not be here if it were not for him."

Geraldo Rivera, speaking on Hannity, added: "What Roger did was democratize the news business in a very very big way. He was a great man," he said. "He was so vivid in his vision and so loyal in his friendships." 

Baier also addressed the news on Special Report, remembering the former Fox News chief as a "tough but brilliant strategist." 

"The man that we knew for all those years was not the man [we knew] at the end of his career, which ended in controversy," he said, adding that Ailes was always "the first to reach out, the first one to call when my son had an open heart surgery. I'll always remember him."

Baier concluded the segment with a message to Ailes: "Roger, we're signing off for you, for the last time on Fox News Channel. Rest in peace."

Fox News Specialists host Eric Bolling concluded Thursday's show with a tribute to Ailes: "I want to take a moment to remember Roger Ailes right now. Today America lost a legend – a pillar of conservative politics. Roger Ailes built the Fox News empire until he was forced out amid allegations of sexual harassment last year. But when remembering Roger Ailes we must remember all of Roger Ailes. Personally he brought me over here from CNBC, seeing something in me that even I didn’t know existed. A conservative a point of view, a conservative set of values and opinions that he said would resonate far better with the Fox audience rather then the NBC audience. I think Roger was right. Thank you, R.A.” 

Shepard Smith paid tribute to Ailes on Thursday's Shepard Smith Reporting, calling him a "shaper of American history" and "uproariously funny man with now well documented flaws."

He went on to discuss the "profound" impact Ailes had on his life, recalling the "exhilarating" underdog spirit of his beginning days at Fox News Channel. "Our enemies were MSNBC and CNN," he said. "We would conquer them and become the most powerful name in news and we would do it as a team and we would reap the rewards from it, all of us... and he fought with us. And as we fought he would protect us from all comers... and America would be a better place for our efforts."

He detailed his experience under Ailes, all the way up until last year when "we began to learn of another side of Roger Ailes. Another part of his life. I didn't believe it could be true at first. This man I so admired, despite our differences. It all came to a head as hundreds of us were in Cleveland for the Republican convention. The accusations were mortifying. All cameras were trained on us, all of them. We were the news. Tears flowed daily off-camera... so far from headquarters... confused and helpless. Unnerved and under attack. Roger would want us to perform, to serve our audience. And we did somehow."

Fox News anchor Martha MacCullum concluded her show on Thursday night saying that Ailes "created a giant of a news organization out of nothing." She added, "He had a clear vision for Fox News and he cheered us on to hit it out of the park year after year against our competition. When it came to the big nights, debates, conventions, elections, he would tell those of us going on the air that it was more important to be right than first and that if we were ever wrong to get out there and correct it and he’d have our back. He reminded us to look like we were having fun out there and we were and we will and we thank him for that."

Host Tucker Carlson remembered Ailes at the end of his nightly program. "He was a huge figure here and in life," Carlson said. "Roger always rooted for the underdog. While others kissed up and kicked down, Roger was the opposite. He was friendlier to the cleaning crew here than with presidential candidates."

All hosts of The Five — Jesse Watters, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino and Juan Williams — also dedicated a portion of Thursday's show to share stories about working under Ailes. "I owe everything to him," said Watters. "It is unfortunate that he left here in conjunction with charges of inappropriate behavior, but he's been a great father, a great husband."

Guilfoyle said Ailes had "such an incredible formative impact on so many people's lives. He took a chance on me." Describing him as a "loyal person" who "was so devoted to his employees," she shared, "He became a second father to me. I think he made me a better person."

Speaking about Ailes' impact in the news sphere, Gutfeld added, "Roger had a huge effect on this country, on the news, on all of us around the tale. All other news outlets were improved by him. ... Roger created a more informed public."

Former Fox News and current MSNBC host Greta Van Susteren, who spoke out against Ailes after Gretchen Carlson brought her sexual harassment suit, said, "My heart goes out to Beth and Zach and yes Roger was the tv genius as everyone has said this morning."

Attorney and Fox News critic Lisa Bloom wrote, "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."

See the reactions from members of the media, Hollywood and more below.

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