After 23 years at Fox News, chief news anchor Shepard Smith announced Friday that he was making his last appearance on the network.
His colleagues at Fox News did not seem to have been aware of Smith’s departure ahead of time. Neil Cavuto, whose show follows Smith’s, appeared surprised by the news. “I’m Neil Cavuto and, like you, I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken,” Cavuto said.
John Roberts, reporting from the White House a few moments later, said he felt like he was “hit by a subway train” after hearing the news.
Smith said he plans to start a new chapter, although his exit agreement does not allow him to take another broadcasting job right away. He wants to take some time to be with his family but does not plan to retire, according to reports.
Just the facts
“Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive,” Smith said at the end of his Friday broadcast.
Smith’s show focused on news, rather than opinion, but he had become known for criticizing and “fact-checking” President Donald Trump — which occasionally led to clashes with his conservative colleagues.
On a recent broadcast, Smith called for fellow host Tucker Carlson to apologize after one of his guests called Fox contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano a “fool” for saying Trump broke the law.
While Smith’s time slot in the middle of the workday may have played a part in his ratings, his show was the lowest-rated on the network. A Morning Consult poll last November also said that Smith was the “least-loved Fox News personality” among Republican viewers.
Fox wanted Smith to stay
Fox News reportedly tried to get Smith to stay on, but he said that he declined. “So 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,” Smith said. In other reports, however, it was rumored that Fox News brass didn’t want to continue paying Smith $15 million a year for the lowest ratings of any show.
Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace 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. His integrity and outstanding reporting from the field helped put FOX News on the map, and there is simply no better breaking news anchor who has the ability to transport a viewer to a place of conflict, tragedy, despair or elation through his masterful delivery.”
Rotating anchors including Jon Scott and Trace Gallagher will take his place until a new permanent host is chosen for the 3 p.m. hour, which will now be called Fox News Reporting.
Trump also said he was surprised by Smith’s announcement, and asked whether Smith was leaving over “bad ratings.” “I wish him well,” he added.