Fox News host Shepard Smith paid an extremely emotional tribute to the late Roger Ailes — former CEO and Chairman of Fox News — on Thursday afternoon during “Fox Report,” calling Ailes a “patriot” and noting that he loved Ailes like a father.
In a 12-minute monologue, Smith recalled the biggest moments in his 20-plus year relationship with Ailes, noting their close familial bond and the unwavering support given to Smith — as well as other Fox anchors — during trying and heartbreaking assignments such as the Columbine shooting and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
“When a blackmailer entered my life and the lives of my family, he held my hand and saw me to the other side,” Smith said of Ailes’ character. “When details of my personal life became public, he supported me.”
Smith didn’t shy away from addressing the sexual harassment allegations that rocked Fox networks and caused Ailes to resign from his positions in 2016.
“Last year, last year we began to learn of another side of Roger Ailes, another part of his life,” Smith said. “I didn’t believe it could be true at first. This man I so admired despite our differences.”
Smith continued, “It all came to a head as hundreds of us were in Cleveland for the Republican convention. The accusations were mortifying. All cameras were trained on us. We were the news. Tears flowed daily off camera. So far from headquarters, confused and helpless, and under attack.”
Smith later detailed the last time he’d spoken with Ailes.
“In our private work space there, by then, surrounded by guards keeping prying reporters away from us, a cellphone was being passed around. Roger’s on the line,” Smith remembered. “I took it in my hand and said, ‘Roger — hey, how are you doing?’ His voice was firm and reassuring. ‘I’m OK, Roger. We’re all working hard.’ There was a private exchange then. He told me keep up the good work. Keep everybody motivated and on point. We’ll get through this. I love you. That was the last we spoke.”
Speaking out to the “true victims” of Ailes’ purported sexual harassment, Smith offered kind words.
“He left the company and the rest is history,” he said. “To the true victims, respect and comfort. It’s all so complicated. Everything here was, and is, as he was.”
“Roger Ailes was a patriot,” Smith said, welling up with tears. “He was the biggest personality and the most influential and powerful man I encountered. He changed my life and everybody in my family forever, for generations to come. He guided me and supported me and protected me and told me he loved me like a father. And I love him.”
Ailes passed away at the age of 77 on Thursday.
In a statement, Ailes’ wife Elizabeth said:
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…
See Smith’s full speech in the video below.