Fox News anchor Shepard Smith admitted Thursday that he sometimes bothered former Fox CEO Roger Ailes when he would go "rogue," but otherwise praised Ailes, who died today, as the inspiring leader of the top cable news channel.
Smith described himself as a down-the-middle anchor at a conservative-leaning outlet, but he said Ailes told him, "Do whatever you do in the field, whatever that is, do that in the studio."
"'I'll tell producers to lay off you, just do the news. Do it straight and when you get out of line, you'll hear from me,'" Smith said he was told by Ailes, as he teared up on air. "And I did. But he let me do the news. To my face, he encouraged it. Behind my back, to managers and others, he railed against it. 'Get him in line, he's going rogue,' … Yet, I was doing exactly what [Ailes] told me to do. It was complicated. So much here was and is. But it was working."
Smith recalled a time that he said he was blackmailed and said that Ailes "held my hand and protected me and he saw me to the other side."
Ailes' wife Beth announced his death Thursday morning. He had reportedly suffered complications after a fall in his bathroom.
Ailes was ousted from his job as the head of Fox last summer amid a sexual harassment controversy.
Smith addressed that issue in his tribute to Ailes, referring to it as "another part of his life" that he initially didn't believe. "The accusations were mortifying," Smith said.
He said that during the Republican National Convention last July, during which Ailes was fired, he received a call from his boss. Smith characterized it as a private exchange that ended with Ailes telling him he loved him. And he said that was the last time they spoke.