Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, both a critic of President Trump and a target of his scorn, announced Friday that he was leaving the network.
“Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter,” said Smith. “After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged.”
Smith’s colleague Neil Cavuto, who follows Smith in the weekday lineup at the conservative news network, was visibly shaken after the announcement.
“Whoa,” said Cavuto. “I’m Neil Cavuto and, like you, I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken. I don’t know what to say.”
White House correspondent John Roberts was also shocked, saying, “I’m just trying to compile my thoughts too. I walked out here to do the hit and suddenly got hit by a subway train. Holy mackerel.”
Smith was the least popular anchor among Fox News viewers as of a November 2018 poll and a target of Trump. On Wednesday evening, Attorney General William Barr met with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch in the wake of Trump’s criticism of the network over its polling.
“From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.”
“[Fox News] is also much different than it used to be in the good old days,” he continued. “With people like Andrew Napolitano, who wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice & I turned him down (he’s been terrible ever since), Shep Smith, @donnabrazile (who gave Crooked Hillary the debate questions & got fired from @CNN), & others, @FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!”
For months, polls taken by the network have shown the president trailing his Democratic rivals in hypothetical matchups for the 2020 presidential race, and this week a survey it conducted showed a majority of Americans favored the impeachment inquiry launched against the president by House Democrats.
Smith had often questioned the administration’s moves. Last week, for instance, he pointed out that Trump had potentially violated federal election law by calling on China and Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
At the network, Smith was also targeted by some of his pro-Trump colleagues who serve as informal advisers to the president. Sean Hannity labeled him “anti-Trump” in 2017. In September, Tucker Carlson openly mocked Smith on his primetime show. There were reports Fox executives sided with Carlson in the spat, which the network has denied.
“At no time did anyone — including anyone in management or a third party — speak to Shepard Smith regarding this matter,” said Fox News in a statement. “Anything to the contrary is entirely false and wildly inaccurate.”
Last month, Smith repeatedly blasted Trump on the air for spreading fake news after the president spent the week defending his false claim that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
That prompted Trump to summon Roberts into the Oval Office to complain about the network’s coverage of the controversy — and reportedly Smith in particular.
“He stressed to me that forecasts for Dorian last week had Alabama in the warning cone,” Roberts wrote in a subsequent email to Fox staffers. “He insisted that it is unfair to say Alabama was never threatened by the storm.”
Smith began work at Fox News in 1996 as a host and correspondent, eventually transitioning to his daytime show, “Shepard Smith Reporting,” in 2013.
“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,” said Smith in his final words of the broadcast.
Asked at the White House Friday evening whether he or his attorney general had asked Murdoch to fire Smith, Trump said he had not heard the news of the anchor’s departure.
“Oh, that’s a shame. Is he leaving because of bad ratings?” Trump asked before adding, “I wish him well.”
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