Many things will be said about Roger Ailes in the days to come, most of it about politics, media and controversy. But it’s time for me to say something very personal, simple and straightforward about this complicated man: He came through for me, when I needed him to.
About a year or so into my work for Fox News, I got depressed. It was the real deal—low mood, low energy, anxiety and worse. I wasn’t sure I would be able to appear on camera, as though everything were okay. Nothing was okay.
I called Roger’s assistant and told her I needed a month or two off, without pay, and hoped Roger would be all right with that.
Depression colors everything with shadows, so I figured my request would lead to some sort of trouble. Maybe I would have to describe what I was going through. Maybe, since I hadn’t described it and didn’t really want to, Roger would just let me go. After all, I hadn’t been at Fox all that long. And I had asked Roger to take a pretty controversial journey with me, letting a psychiatrist provide psychological commentary on news events. Now, I was bowing out for months. Maybe he’d see it as an opportune time to call it a day.
So, when Roger called me, I felt a sense of impending doom.
“Keith,” he said, “I hear you asked for two months of unpaid leave, is that right?”
“Yes,” I said. “You’re probably going to want to know . . .”
Roger interrupted me. “I don’t need to know a damn thing,” he said. “But you need to know you will be paid. Two months, or three. It doesn’t matter. We’re a family here, and we’ve all been through things in our lives. And if the three months isn’t enough, tell me, and I’ll help you, personally, if I have to. Whatever you’re going through, Godspeed, my friend. See you when you’re back. Let’s get dinner, then.”
I never forgot that call or that kindness. And I will never forget it.
When you’re depressed, you can think you have no luck, or no friends or no future. That call reminded me—someplace deep inside me, where it mattered—that I still had all three.
I’m not sure Roger Ailes ever knew the full impact of what he had done for me, but I suspect he did these good turns for many, many people. And that’s why so many people loved him and were loyal to him.
Godspeed, my friend. Thank you.