Fox News host Shep Smith paid tribute to Roger Ailes in a tearful segment on his show Thursday.
“Roger Ailes died today,” Smith said. “The founder of our network, our former CEO and chairman, husband to Beth, father of Zach, media genius, revolutionary in American politics, shaper of American history, uproariously funny man with now well documented flaws, fell at his home in Florida and did not survive. I loved him.”
Throughout the 12-minute long segment, Smith teared up several times, at one point having to stop to reach for tissues to wipe his tears. He recounted his relationship with Ailes, tracing back from his earliest days at Fox News up until the founders ouster among sexual harassment allegations last year.
A recurring theme throughout the tribute was the Ailes’ “complicated” nature as a leader, friend and human being. Smith recalled receiving support from Ailes to his face, while simultaneously hearing from managers that the former Fox News boss was accusing him of “going rogue” in closed-door meetings.
“It’s all so complicated,” he said. “Everything here was and is… as he was.”
The most personal moment of the segment came when Smith described Ailes and his wife Beth putting on a display of support when Smith first came out as gay.
“When an extortionist and blackmailer entered my life and the lives of my family he held my hand and protected me and saw me to the other side,” he said. “When details of my personal life became public, he supported me. My partner Gio and I went to a fourth of July party at his amazingly beautiful home overlooking West Point. He used to say, ‘I’ll man the turret if anyone gets near this place.’ And he had one.”
Ailes died at the age of 77 on Thursday morning, succumbing to complications from a fall at his home last week. The former Fox News CEO was remembered fondly by a number of his old employees, but the sexual harassment allegations that led to his resignation last July has resulted in a more mixed reaction from those outside the company.
“Roger Ailes was a patriot,” Smith said. “He was the biggest personality and the most influential and powerful man I ever personally encountered. He changed my life and the lives of everyone in my family forever, for generations to come. He guided me and supported me and protected me and he told me he loved me like a father. And I love him.”