Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News who was one of the most powerful television executives in the U.S., was married to 55-year-old Elizabeth Tilson Ailes. Ailes died on May 18.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” Elizabeth said in a statement. “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.”
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes had a fall last week at his Palm Beach home and suffered a blood clot. Sherman added that Elizabeth was living in Garrison, New York while Ailes was in Palm Beach in recent weeks.
On July 5, 2016, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, claiming she suggested they have a sexual relationship even after she declined his previous alleged sexual advances. Ailes and Fox News denied the allegations, but on July 19, Deadline reported that Ailes was fired by Fox News, but The Hollywood Reporter was told by a Fox News spokesperson that Ailes was still working. On July 21, The New York Times confirmed that Ailes resigned.
According to a New York Magazine expose by Gabriel Sherman, Elizabeth was “taking all of the revelations especially hard,” citing family sources. Rudy Giuliani reportedly told Rupert Murdoch that the Aileses might get a divorce, Sherman wrote. “This marriage won’t last,” Sherman’s sources recall hearing Giuliani say.
On September 6, 2016, Vanity Fair reported that Fox News, on Ailes’ behalf, has reached a $20 million settlement with Carlson. It’s not clear how much of that Ailes will pay himself, the magazine reports. Also according to the magazine, Fox News reached settlements with two other women.
Ailes and Elizabeth have been married for 18 years and they have one son. Here’s what you need to know about Elizabeth.
1. Elizabeth & Ailes Have a Teen Son Named Zac
Elizabeth and Ailes are the parents of a 16-year-old son named Zachary, who was born on New Year’s Day 2000. In a 2013 interview with Zev Chafets for the book Roger Ailes Off Camera, Ailes said he wants “Zac to know me” since he never really knew his father.
In the book, which Vanity Fair posted an excerpt from, Ailes said he has been making “memory boxes” for Zac since he was four. Zac is supposed to only open them when Ailes dies. Some of the pictures included show Zac and Elizabeth on a vacation. Another is a piece of paper with “Your mother is a beautiful woman. Always take care of her” written on it.
“It’s important for him to know that his mommy loved his daddy,” Ailes told Chafets.
2. The Couple Lived in a Hilltop Home Made of Adirondack River Stone
Elizabeth and Ailes lived in a 9,000-square-foot mansion that was built of Ariondack river stone in Garrison, New York, according to The Loudest Voice in the Room, a biography by Gabriel Sherman. They have pictures of George Patton, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Dwight Eisenhower hanging on the walls. Across from the river is West Point.
Ailes thinks that nearby Philipstown is a good representation of traditional America. However, he likes to keep an eye on the neighbors. According to Sherman, the couple bought several of the homes surrounding theirs. They also installed security cameras throughout their property.
“He can live in there for more than six months,” a friend told Sherman. “There are bedrooms, a couple of TVs, water, and freeze-dried food.”
Sherman’s book was unauthorized and Ailes spent time trying to fight the accusations in the book, The New York Times reported in 2014.
In June 2014, New York Magazine reported that Ailes was selling off some of the land he owns in Garrison, including one property he put up for sale for $1.275 million.
3. Elizabeth Ran The Putnam County News and Recorder as Publisher
In 2008, Ailes bought The Putnam County News and Recorder (PCNR) and made Elizabeth the paper’s publisher. He also bought the local Putnam County Courier in 2009, where Elizabeth was also publisher. In December 2016, Ailes sold the PCNR to longtime editor Douglas Cunningham, the Putnam Daily Voice confirmed.
According to her bio on the paper’s site, Elizabeth was a veteran of NBC News and has a B.S. in Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. She was the first producer CNBC hired. She worked at CNBC until 1996, according to her website.
The Ailes family reportedly have a strange relationship with the employees at the local papers Ailes owns. Gawker reported back in 2011 that three former employees from the paper were told by Ailes that he had them followed and accused them of badmouthing him, according to former employees who spoke to Gawker.
4. Elizabeth Once Threatened to File a Libel Lawsuit Over a Facebook Post
In April 2014, The Highlands Current reported that Elizabeth threatened to sue Cold Spring Village Trustee Stephanie Hawkins over a Facebook post she shared from another Trustee. “The Ailes newspaper and their candidates have gone too far. It is clear I’m being followed; my movements are being tracked and reported in their newspaper,” the post read.
“These statements and comments also constitute tortious interference in the business and contractual relations of our clients. As such they are actionable and expose you to the imposition of compensatory as well as punitive damages,” Ailes lawyer Peter Johnson wrote in a letter. According to New York Magazine, Johnson claimed that the Ailes aren’t interested in spying on neighbors.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ailes have not, and have no interest in, ‘manufacturing phony scandals’ in their home town or any other small community in the great United States of America,” Johnson wrote.
Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly also told the Hollywood Reporter that Elizabeth personally tried to get Kelly to publicly defend Ailes after Carlson filed her lawsuit. Kelly ultimately passed on a $20 million contract extension and joined NBC News.
5. Elizabeth Wanted to Help Build a Philipstown Senior Citizens Center, but Ailes Withdrew the Donation in August 2016
According to her PCNR bio, Elizabeth helped renovate a dormitory at the Walter Hoving Home in Garrison. The dormitory, now named Elizabeth Ailes Lodge, had been closed for a decade after a flood. The rehab center’s goal is to help women struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction.
The Ailes also donated funds to build a new senior citizens center in Philipstown that will begin construction in late 2016. It should be ready to open in March 2017. The PCNR reported in May 2016 that local legislators approved a 15-year lease and a contribution agreement to built the center.
“It would have been easier to just write a check,” Elizabeth said. “Who’s going to ensure this gets done? Who’s going to see that trades people from the area get work? That’s the purpose of our agreement, to see it’s done within budget, on time and at a high level of quality.”
However, after Ailes resigned from Fox News, the couple pulled their $500,000 donation into building the facility, LoHud reported in August 2016.