When Fox News' anchor Shepard Smith announced his resignation from the conservative-leaning network, many shocked viewers had a big question on their minds: Who's going to replace him?
According to Variety, a slew of familiar Fox faces will fill Smith's 3 p.m. ET/PT block until the network nails down a permanent path forward. The report was confirmed to USA TODAY by a Fox spokesperson familiar with the situation.
The rotating cast of anchors will include Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, Shannon Bream, Martha MacCallum, Bill Hemmer and John Roberts. Trace Gallagher anchored the show Monday afternoon.
Fox News Media president and executive editor Jay Wallace told Variety the network likely will fill Smith's former time slot next year with a news hour led by a different anchor. Wallace added the network is open to hiring an established Fox staffer or someone outside the company for the job.
“This is going to remain a solid news hour, with our best news stars" he said. “Journalism is a huge part of the mandate here.”
Shepard Smith resigns from Fox News: Smith steps down as chief news anchor, departs network, stuns colleagues
Wallace also told the outlet why he thinks Smith's departure "hit so hard with a lot of people" at the network.
“It was a tough day for a lot of people here,” he said. “The thing about this place, there is a camaraderie, a ‘us against the world’ mentality. … These are more like familial bonds as opposed to just passing, transactional relationships."
In regard to the heated discussions often had on Fox, Wallace highlighted the network's policy of keeping personal drama off-screen.
“Emotions can run high, and they do at times, so they do,” he said. “Our guidance has always been to deal with this – if you have a problem with someone, pick up the phone. These are sharp people. Why do you want to parade this in front of everyone? Our audience doesn’t want to see it.”
Smith, the network's chief news anchor and managing editor of its breaking news unit, had worked at Fox News since its inception in 1996. During his tenure, he made headlines for his on-air criticism of President Donald Trump.
During his Friday afternoon show, Smith announced his decision "to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter," after increasingly clashing with the network's prime-time opinion hosts.
He said his departure was voluntary: "After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small-town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor.
"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 in his emotional on-air speech.
Under his agreement with Fox, "I won't be able to report elsewhere at least in the near future," he said.
President Trump responded to Smith's announcement, tweeting: "Is he leaving due to bad ratings, or some other less important reason?"
Is he leaving due to bad ratings, or some other less important reason? https://t.co/XBr7xVgarc— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2019
Fox News declined to comment but directed USA TODAY to Nielsen ratings, which showed Smith leading in his time slot against rival cable news shows.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fox News president talks Shepard Smith departure: 'It was a tough day'