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Shepard Smith Shares Behind-the-Scenes, Fights Back Tears in Tribute to Roger Ailes

“I loved him.”

Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith dedicated the first 12 minutes of his show Thursday to pay an emotional tribute to the network’s founder and former CEO, Roger Ailes, who died in his Palm Beach home that morning at 77.

Smith described Ailes as an “uproariously funny” media genius and shaper of politics who practiced and expected “fierce loyalty” from those who worked for him.

Every encounter with Ailes – whether in person or on the phone – always ended with, “Keep up the good work, I love you.”

Smith depicted the early days working for what others referred to as “the fledgling” Fox News Channel, when “people laughed at us.”

“There was an underdog spirit here that was exhilarating, and our leader was inspiring like none other” he said. “We worked not for Fox News but for Roger Ailes, and he was with us in the bunker.”

And through it all Ailes was as much father figure to his staff as he was CEO.

“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. “When details of my personal life became public, he supported me.”

Smith also addressed the events – allegations of sexual misconduct – that eventually led to Ailes’ ouster from the network:

“Last year we began to learn of another side of Roger Ailes, another part of his life. I didn’t believe it could be true at first,” Smith said. “This man I so admired despite our differences. 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.”

The Fox News anchor struggled to choke back more tears as he recounted his last conversation with the Fox News CEO.

“In our private work space there, by then, surrounded by guards keeping prying reporters away from us, a cell phone was being passed around. Roger’s on the line,” Smith recalled that moment in Cleveland.

“I took it in my hand and said, Roger — ‘hey, how are you doing?’ His voice was firm and reassuring. I’m okay, 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,” Smith said.

“That was the last we spoke.”

“Roger Ailes was a patriot,” Smith said in closing as he tried without success to hold back the 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.”

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