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Conservative media remember Ailes as 'brilliant' but flawed TV executive

David Ng, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Roger Ailes, the founder and former head of Fox News who died Thursday at 77, was a towering figure in the world of conservative news media -- a trailblazer who gave right-wing political voices a national platform and who groomed influential cable news stars like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

At the same time, Ailes' accomplishments were overshadowed by the sexual harassment scandals at Fox News that led to his ignominious departure from the cable channel last year.

Leaders in conservative media acknowledged Thursday his influential but flawed legacy to the world of cable news and conservative politics.

"He was a brilliant TV news executive who recognized a market that almost everyone should have recognized and capitalized on," said Roger L. Simon, co-founder of PJ Media, the conservative news site. "He recognized that half the country wasn't properly served. He struck home that way. There's no question."

But Ailes was also a "tragic figure" who was brought down by "the male libido," said Simon.

Last year, Ailes was accused by Fox News host Gretchen Carlson of sexual harassment. He denied the charges but allegations of additional misconduct continued to dog the cable news channel.

Ailes was ousted in July and received about $40 million as part of a settlement agreement. Since then, accusations of inappropriate behavior at Fox News have continued to surface, leading to the departure of O'Reilly in April from his top-rated show.

Despite the scandals, Ailes' legacy in the conservative world remains peerless, both as a TV executive and as a Republican communications honcho prior to his Fox News career, when he advised numerous conservative candidates who were seeking office, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"He was probably the most influential strategist or media person who has ever participated in Republican politics," said Phillip Stutts, founder and chief executive of Go Big Media, a Washington-based consulting firm, and a Republican strategist.

He said Ailes is also responsible for the rise and proliferation of conservative news sites that have gained prominence in the last decade, like Breitbart, Newsmax, the Daily Caller and the Gateway Pundit.

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