Thursday morning’s surprising news of Fox News founder and former CEO Roger Ailes’ death prompted on-air tears as well as a flood of criticism and tributes, but none of Ailes’ former colleagues can deliver a tribute quite like Shepard Smith does. And no matter how one feels about Ailes himself — especially after the sexual harassment scandal that led to his ousting — Smith’s offering is a 13-minute eulogy to watch in its entirety. However, the most quotable sections arrive shortly after the 10-mintute mark.
Smith runs through a range of emotions that divert from his usual stoic, no-nonsense delivery. He begins by acknowledging respect for the man who plucked him out of (relative) newscaster obscurity and brought him to New York, all while paying unavoidable lip service to his “now well-documented flaws.” Shep speaks of how Ailes oftentimes railed against his style but always supported him. He continued for several minutes to reminisce about the difficulties of covering Hurricane Katrina and the obstacles that Ailes helped clear. Then things took a dark turn:
“Then last year, 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. 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 described his struggle in accepting the reality of Ailes’ scandalous behavior, but he pointedly offered all “respect and comfort” to “the true victims” of Ailes’ actions. He admitted the difficulty, still, in reconciling the man he knew and the acts he committed. “It’s all so complicated,” he said “Everything here was, and is, as he was … I love him.”