Roger Ailes no longer runs Fox News. And Shepard Smith came out as gay today. But those two things are not related, say Smith in a new interview.
The Fox News anchor came out today in response to a question about whether Ailes had forced him to remain in the closet. “That’s not true,” he told The Huffington Post in an interview when asked about the reports. “He was as nice as he could be to me. I loved him like a father.”
Smith was also asked about reports that Ailes had openly used homophobic slurs, asking whether Smith had ever heard them directly.
“No, never. He treated me with respect, just respect,” Smith said. “I wasn’t new in the business when I came here ― I’d been doing reporting for 12 years ― but I wasn’t old in it either, and he gave me every opportunity in the world and he never asked anything of me but that we get it right, try to get it right every day. It was a very warm and loving and comfortable place.”
Smith has long been reported among Out magazine’s Power 50 list, though he’d never come out. Gawker, the now-defunct website run by out editor Nick Denton, reported in 2014 that Smith had said “it’s time” to come out during contract negotiations, but Ailes bluntly told him the channel’s conservative audience wouldn’t tolerate a gay anchor. Fox News denied the report at the time with a joint statement by Ailes and Smith that didn’t address Smith’s sexual orientation.
“This story is 100 percent false and a complete fabrication,” they wrote. “As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally.”
Over the years, Smith has sometimes stuck out among his colleagues who are on the opinion side of the business. Smith is solely news. After President Obama announced his support for marriage equality in 2012, Smith reported it this way, “The president of the United States, now in the 21st century."
That enraged the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who attacked Smith on air. "Shep, where has the issue won?" Limbaugh said on his radio program. "Where has it emerged victorious, Shep, outside your house?"
Meanwhile, Ailes has been ousted from Fox News after multiple women, including former anchor Gretchen Carlson of Fox & Friends, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment. The network paid a big settlement to Carlson. It was during the chaos of that time when CNNMoney reported a source at Fox News saying Ailes had called the Media Matters for America founder "that faggot David Brock" during a meeting.
Smith said Ailes leaving and the allegations of sexual harassment surfacing were “horrifying.”
“I trusted him with my career and with ― I trusted him and trusts were betrayed,” he told The Huffington Post. “People outside this company can’t know [how painful that betrayal was]. This place has its enemies, but inside, it was very personal, and very scarring and horrifying.”
Smith coming out means there is an out anchor at each of the major cable news channels, with Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon leading prime-time programs at CNN, and Rachel Maddow earning top ratings at MSNBC. Now, with Ailes gone, the Huffington Post piece is asking, “Is Shep Smith the Future of Fox News?”