Fox's Shep Smith’s emotional tribute to Ailes: ‘I love him’

Fox's Shepard Smith paid an emotional tribute to the late former Fox News CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes Thursday afternoon on "Fox Report," calling the 77-year-old media titan "the most influential and powerful man I encountered." 

Smith, who was hired by Ailes when the news channel launched in 1996, spent more than 12 minutes of his program remembering his former boss, who died in Palm Springs, Fla., earlier Thursday. 

"Being in the public eye is rewarding, but comes with many challenges. Roger knew that," Smith said during the first part of his show.

"He would try to prepare me for that and lead me through it. When a blackmailer entered my life and the lives of my family, he held my hand and saw me to the other side. When details of my personal life became public, he supported me." 

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Smith then addressed the sexual harassment allegations that led to Ailes’s quick and stunning departure in July 2016. 

“Then last year, last year we began to learn of another side of Roger Ailes, another part of his life," Smith continued. "I didn’t believe it could be true at first. 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." 

Smith then shared the last time he spoke to 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," he recalled. "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.”

The 53-year-old anchor also spoke of Ailes's patriotism while addressing "the true victims" of Ailes's alleged actions, to whom he offered "respect and comfort."

“He left the company and the rest is history. 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. 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," Smith said, reduced to tears. 

“It was complicated. So much here was and is,” he added.

Fox News has lost important personnel over the past year in addition to Ailes, including top-rated hosts Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren.