Roger Ailes, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Fox News who oversaw the network's ascendance to a ratings powerhouse and major cultural influence, has died at the age of 77.

Fox News reported the death Thursday morning.

"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," his widow, Elizabeth Ailes, said in a statement published by Fox and others. "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."

Ailes was forced from the news network he built last summer after several women, including former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, accused him of sexual harassment. Carlson's lawsuit against Fox parent company 21st Century Fox eventually ended in a settlement, in which she was paid $20 million, according to several reports at the time.

The Fox report notes Ailes "strongly denied her allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination."

CNN, in a report on Ailes' death, said he was "arguably the most powerful man in media" when the harassment scandal hit.

Ailes had been a media consultant to several Republican presidents, and a closer adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year.

In a statement published by Fox at the time of Ailes' resignation, Rupert Murdoch — who assumed the role of chairman and acting CEO of Fox News — said Fox under Ailes "has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media."

"His grasp of policy and his ability to make profoundly important issues accessible to a broader audience stand in stark contrast to the self-serving elitism that characterizes far too much of the media," Murdoch said at the time.

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