The anchor has been a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s attacks, after Smith had been critical of the president at certain points in his administration. Smith’s abrupt departure also comes just hours after Attorney General Bill Barr met with FNC owner Rupert Murdoch at the media mogul’s New York City residence.
Smith has been a contrast to many of Fox News’ primetime opinion hosts, contradicting or clarifying their pro-Trump rhetoric and remarks. Most recently, he said that the claims that Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have made against Joe Biden have so far “proven baseless,” even as they have been echoed on shows like Hannity and The Ingraham Angle.
On Thursday, Trump complained that Fox News “doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be. He cited Smith along with other news personalities and the recent Fox News poll, which showed that public support for his impeachment was at 51%.
Citing talking “truth to power,” Smith addressed the move just now at the end of his show on Friday (see the video above). He had signed a multiyear deal in 2018.
He said, “Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged. Under our agreement I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future.”
He said that he will be “able to see more of Gio and Lucia, and our friends and family, and we will see what comes along.” Smith’s partner is Gio Graziano and Lucia is his dog.
“Even in our currently polarized nation, it is my hopes that the facts will win the day, and that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will always thrive,” he said.
As he handed the reins over to Neil Cavuto, Cavuto looked surprised.
“I’m Neil Cavuto and like you, I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken. I don’t know what to say,” he said at the top of his show.
In a statement, Smith said, “I’ve worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I’m proud to have anchored their work each day — I will deeply miss them.”
Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor of Fox News Media, said, “Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry.”
Smith had been at Fox News for 23 years, since its launch in 1996. His show has averaged 1.3 million total viewers and 200,000 in the 25-54 demographic, easily outpacing the competition on rival news channels, according to Nielsen Media Research. The network said that the show will for now be renamed Fox News Reporting, with Jon Scott and Trace Gallagher among the anchors filling in.
Smith has been vocal about calling out Trump, particularly for his attacks on the media, from the start of his presidency. After Trump’s first press conference in February 2017, Smith called the event “crazy” and told viewers, “He keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we are some kind of fools for asking the question.”
His criticisms stood out on a network where conservative opinion hosts dominate primetime, and a number of its figures have taken jobs in the administration.
Recently some of the tensions between the news and opinion sides of Fox have spilled out in the open. Last month, just after Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry, one of Smith’s guests, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News senior judicial analyst, plainly said that it was “crime a for the president to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign government.”
Later that evening, one of Tucker Carlson’s guests, Joe diGenova, called Napolitano a “fool.” The next day, Smith criticized diGenova and implicitly criticized Carlson for not challenging his guest’s comment.
“Attacking our colleague, who is here to offer legal assessments, on our air in our work home is repugnant,” he said.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.