Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly paid tribute to his ex-boss on Thursday's episode of his No Spin podcast, calling him a "tough guy" who did very kind things in private, and who died with a broken heart because he was forced out of the network under a cloud of controversy.
There were accusations "he treated some women poorly and he had to leave the company. Ultimately, he walked away and he was never the same," O'Reilly said.
He added, "There are very few human beings on this planet who are visionaries. He died in a way that was heartbreaking. His departure from Fox News broke his heart."
"For 20-plus years he allowed me to create The O'Reilly Factor. It was Roger who drove the whole network to unprecedented success. I had a hand in it, but he was the guy," O'Reilly told his podcast audience on Thursday.
"He was a tough, gruff guy. Over the years, I saw him do privately - always privately - very kind things that few other TV executives, or any executives, would ever do. He saved people - routinely, when they got into trouble," he said. "The list of names are legion, and if you were straight with him, he had your back."
The former Fox News star also took shots at what he says is a biased media that treated Ailes far more harshly than it treated President Bill Clinton when he dealt with similar accusations.
"The difference between Roger Ailes and Bill Clinton was Clinton was able to overcome what he brought upon himself in the White House because of a largely sympathetic media. That's a real interesting comparison," O'Reilly noted.
Ailes, he said, was known for settling scores, "and that made him a big target. He didn't take guff from the left or the right. He alienated a lot of people. He was very tough and a lot of people hated him, and that hatred ultimately brought him down.
"He made a difference," O'Reilly said of Ailes. "And no hater will ever be able to obscure that."
Ailes, a political consultant before he joined Fox News as CEO, passed away earlier in the day as a result of complications from a fall at the age of 77.
Ailes resigned from the network last summer amid sexual harassment allegations, with O'Reilly leaving the network last month for similar reasons.
Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox and Fox News executive chairman, remembered his former colleague in a statement on Thursday: "Everybody at Fox News is shocked and grieved by the death of Roger Ailes. A brilliant broadcaster, Roger played a huge role in shaping America's media over the last 30 years. He will be remembered by the many people on both sides of the camera that he discovered, nurtured and promoted. Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have. In addition, Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs. At 21st Century Fox we will always be enormously grateful for the great business he built. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Elizabeth and son Zachary."
Fox News' Sean Hannity also paid tribute on social media. "Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors," he tweeted, adding, "He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better. Neither will ever be the same again as he was a true American original."
Ailes, who ran CNBC in the 1990s, was brought on to help Murdoch launch Fox News in 1996. O'Reilly joined the network not long after and hosted The O'Reilly Factor for two decades before his exit in April.