Fox News anchor Shepard Smith paid tribute Thursday (18 May) to his former boss Roger Ailes who has died at the age of 77 of complications from a head injury.
The controversial Ailes built Fox News into a media empire but was forced to resign in disgrace last year following allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues.
Smith described Ailes in on-air tribute as a ‘media genius, revolutionary in American politics, shaper of American history, uproariously funny man with now well documented flaws … I loved him.’
‘There was an underdog spirit here that was exhilarating,; Smith said of the early days of Fox News as it took on rivals CNN and MSNBC. ‘And our leader was inspiring like none other. We worked not for Fox News but for Roger Ailes and he was with us in the bunker fighting for respect and fighting for viewers. Fighting to win.’
Although his being gay was long and open secret, Smith finally came out publicly last fall when speaking about the Ailes sexual harassment scandal.
There had been past reports that Ailes had stopped Smith from coming out publicly years ago.
‘That’s not true. He was as nice as he could be to me. I loved him like a father,’ Smith told Huffington Post in an article about a post-Ailes Fox News.
‘He was very fatherly and mentorish,’ he also said of Ailes. ‘And now I know that there were other things going on here.’
As details of Ailes’ rampant sexual harassment allegations emerged, he was also accused of using homophobic slurs.
Smith said Ailes never used them when he was around.
‘He treated me with respect, just respect,’ he said.
‘I wasn’t new in the business when I came here ― I’d been doing reporting for 12 years ― but I wasn’t old in it either, and he gave me every opportunity in the world and he never asked anything of me but that we get it right, try to get it right every day. It was a very warm and loving and comfortable place.’
Smith said he trusted Ailes with his career.
‘I trusted him and trusts were betrayed. People outside this company can’t know [how painful that betrayal was]. This place has its enemies, but inside, it was very personal, and very scarring and horrifying.’
Smith, 52, is the former host of Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Studio B weekdays on Fox News Channel. In October 2013, he became the host of Shepard Smith Reporting as well as the managing editor of Fox News Channel’s Breaking News Division.