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Roger Ailes, who fueled a revival of conservative American politics at the helm of the powerful Fox News, has died at age 77, months after he was forced out in a sexual harassment scandal. A longtime confidant of media titan Rupert Murdoch who became a central figure in the conservative US political movement, Ailes stood down at Fox in July last year under the cloud of a sexual harassment lawsuit from former news host Gretchen Carlson - one of a string of such allegations against him. "I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," said the statement from his wife read today on Fox News. Ailes, she said, "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."There was no immediate indication of the cause of death. Murdoch led tributes to the late Fox News chairman, hailing what he called his "huge role in shaping America's media." "Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs," the 86-year-old said in a statement. "Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have." Ailes long commanded one of the pillars of Murdoch's media empire, and a unit of the Murdoch-led conglomerate 21st Century Fox. Under Ailes' leadership, Fox became America's most widely watched cable news channel, home to key conservative political commentators and drawing an audience distinct from rivals CNN and MSNBC. "Today, America lost one of its great patriotic warriors," Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted. "He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape, single-handedly for the better." Ailes' influential career at Fox News came to a crashing end after he was targeted in a sexual harassment suit by Carlson, a popular host and former Miss America, who claimed she was sacked for refusing his advances. Carlson's lawsuit opened the gates to a flood of allegations from women, including star host Megyn Kelly, who accused him of groping them or making unwanted advances - and sought to expose what they called a culture of misogyny at the network. Some reports said as many as 25 women had accused the executive of misconduct or harassment. Ailes, who denied any wrongdoing, reportedly received $40 million on his departure. By the time he stood down, however, Ailes had become a central figure in the American political landscape - both revered by fellow conservatives, and vilified by the political left.