[UPDATE BELOW] Roger Ailes's wife has issued a statement this morning announcing the death of the hugely influential and controversial Fox News founder. The cause of death has not yet been made public. Here's the statement from Elizabeth Ailes:

I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. 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. During a career that stretched over more than five decades, his work in entertainment, in politics, and in news affected the lives of many millions. And so even as we mourn his death, we celebrate his life...

Ailes was 77. He was forced to resign as CEO and Chairman on Fox News last summer after a wave of sexual harassment allegations were made public. Days before his resignation—which reportedly came with a $60 million golden parachute—former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson came forward with her own allegations, suing Ailes for firing her for not having sex with him and complaining about other sexist behavior at the cable news channel. She later settled with Fox for $20 million and an apology.

Ailes denied the allegations and claimed Carlson was fired because her show was doing poorly. Carlson countered that she was switched to a less-desirable timeslot and not given any marketing support because she rebuffed Ailes's harassment.

Carlson’s allegations led to a cascade of similar accounts from women who said Ailes sexually harassed them. One former Fox News employee, Laurie Luhn, described how she was groomed and “psychologically tortured” by Ailes during a 20-year long sexual relationship.

In an interview with New York magazine, other women described horrifying run-ins with Ailes during his career in broadcasting: "He reclined on a couch in a seating area under a map that had flags of all the cities they were syndicated in. He proceeded to pull down his pants and very gingerly pull out his genitals and said, 'Kiss them.'"

Ailes founded Fox News in 1996 and the network swiftly grew into a right wing news powerhouse. Before that, Ailes served as an aide to Richard Nixon starting in 1968, and was instrumental in improving then-candidate Nixon's television presence. From Politco:

Ailes also encouraged Nixon to practice the politics of resentment that came naturally to him, creating the basic formula used by Reagan, both Bushes and countless lesser conservative politicians: playing on the public’s sense that powerful liberal were getting ahead at the expense of Middle America.

Along with others in the Nixon White House, Ailes also began to change how the public thought about the press, arguing relentlessly that what we now call the mainstream media had an irredeemable liberal bias. From Vice President Spiro Agnew’s fiery speeches in late 1969 to the ongoing White House project of monitoring news coverage for ideological taint, Nixon’s team helped sow the notion that conservative politicians and viewpoints weren’t getting a fair shake in the news coverage—and used the resulting public support this generated as leverage against the press. Ailes fully shared this opinion of the media as slanted. In a memo to top Nixon aides, he even proposed creating a White House television news service that would provide local stations with administration-produced news segments to counterbalance what viewers consumed via regular TV.

In 1970 Ailes drafted a 300-page memo titled, "A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News," writing, "Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit -- watch -- listen. The thinking is done for you."

Update 9:27:New York

magazine's Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a damning biography of Ailes, reports that Ailes may have died from complications arising from a blood clot:

Update, 10:03 a.m.: Douglas Wigdor, the attorney representing a number of former and current Fox News employees who accuse the company of discrimination, said in a statement, "The sudden passing of Roger Ailes will make it difficult for Fox News to refute the allegations against him as his testimony was not secured by sworn testimony to date. For example, our client Lidija Ujkic claims in her complaint pending in the Southern District that Mr. Ailes made the following comments: (i) insisting that President Obama is a Muslim who had ulterior motives and was working with terrorists; (ii) discussing the Fox News recipe for success as showing women from the feet up; (iii) asking Ms. Ujkic to stand up and turn around so he could see her from behind and commenting that he liked what he saw; and (iv) calling her ex-boyfriend and asking whether she 'put out' and 'how’s the sex.'"