ROGER AILES

Obituary
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AILES--Roger.

1940-2017. An American lion will be roaring no more, yet the echoes of his life will be heard for a long time. Roger Ailes, the founding chairman and CEO of Fox News, died of complications due to a subdural hematoma just after 8am in Palm Beach, FL on Thursday, May 18. He was 77. Roger was born on May 15, 1940, to a blue-collar family in Warren, OH, a gritty industrial town southeast of Cleveland, hard by the Pennsylvania border. His father worked at the Packard Electric plant. Roger's mother was a homemaker, caring for three children. Roger was born with hemophilia, which came close to killing him several times. In his youth, the normal boyhood injuries were often debilitating, sometimes even life-threatening. Yet he persevered, always, with grit, gumption, and, perhaps above all else, a sense of humor. To know Roger was to laugh, because he could find the light side of just about anything. At the same time, he was serious-minded and purposeful about what mattered most to him: family, country, and faith. Roger attended public schools and worked in a variety of jobs, from paper boy to theater usher to road repair and construction. At Ohio University he showed interest in theater and drama classes. Later he worked as a disc jockey for the college radio station and also as a cameraman for a nearby TV outlet. Roger's first job out of college was with KYW-TV in Cleveland. Starting there as a prop boy, he soon joined the production team of The Mike Douglas Show, a locally produced daily 90-minute variety program. Within a few years, he was the executive producer of the program, propelling its syndication into 180 markets. When The Mike Douglas Show moved to Philadelphia it was there, in 1968, that Roger met Richard Nixon, then a presidential candidate. In the green room, the two men got to talking, and soon enough, Roger was working on the Nixon campaign. His immediate job was producing ten hour-long "Man in the Arena" programs for the Nixon campaign. This was high- stakes live television; Nixon answered questions from audience members, demonstrating his command of the issues. Nixon won. After the victory, Roger worked as a consultant to the White House, coming down to Washington, DC, from his new home base in New York City to advise the President. On July 20, 1969, as the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Roger was in the Oval Office producing the live event, a split-screen with Nixon on one side and the astronauts on the other. Roger focused on new challenges. He was the producer of the award-winning off-Broadway show Hot L Baltimore. He also worked in advertising and public relations and executive produced a documentary on African wildlife with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. At the same time Roger started working as a television and political consultant to Republicans seeking election to federal, state, and local office. Over the next two decades, from 1970 to 1991, he advised hundreds of GOP incumbents and challengers. Most won. Two of those candidates were Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Focusing on their debates and TV spots, Roger played key roles in their respective 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, both of which culminated in landslide victories. Having retired from political consulting in the 90s, Roger moved on to cable news. From 1993 to 1995, Roger was the President of CNBC, where he vastly improved ratings and market power. In 1996, Roger launched the Fox News Channel. He and his hand-picked team put together an entire news-gathering operation and a prime-time lineup. The impact of Fox was immediate. By the beginning of 2002, Fox News was the number one cable news outlet in the nation, a win- streak that continued through his entire tenure at Fox. Fox was, indeed, the most powerful name in news. All the while, Roger was a loving husband and father. He married Elizabeth Carney Tilson in 1998 and their son, Zachary, was born New Year's Day 2000. Last July he resigned from 21st Century Fox amid allegations that he sexually harassed staff, charges he vigorously denied until the day he died. Roger had the heart and courage of a lion, and he was a true friend. He was always thinking of others and was reliably generous to anyone in need who crossed his path. So it's that greatness of achievement, and largeness of spirit, that his family, friends, and admirers choose to celebrate. Those who wish to join us in that celebration are encouraged to make a donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation.

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Published in The New York Times on May 20, 2017
bullet 2017