- Shepard Smith announced that he’s leaving Fox News after 23 years at the cable news network.
- The anchor had been with Fox News since its inception in 1996 and took on a reputation in recent years as an outspoken critic of some of his network colleagues and President Donald Trump.
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Longtime anchor Shepard Smith announced that he’s leaving Fox News after 23 years at the cable news network.
Smith made his mark on air with a signature fast-paced and lean language broadcasting style, and built a career on covering legendary events like President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In recent years, the network star publicly butt heads with Fox News opinion show figures and President Donald Trump, which some have speculated were the early signs of his discontent at the network. Here’s how Shep Smith came from local reporting to Fox News’ in-house rebel.
In 1987, Smith was two credits shy of graduating from Ole Miss when he dropped out to marry classmate Virginia Donald and take a Panama City, Florida, reporting job.
He landed his first job with NBC affiliate WJHG-TV in Panama City.
Smith then made his way to Los Angeles, where he worked as a reporter for the now-defunct news show “A Current Affair” and the Fox News Edge affiliate news service.
Source: The New York Times
As a reporter, Smith had a fierce tenacity and solid work ethic. He later told The New York Times that he “didn’t like it when people didn’t work as hard as I did,” and “was aggressive and probably difficult and loud.”
Source: The New York Times
After years of local reporting, Smith was among the first people hired by Fox News’s co-founder, the late Roger Ailes, for the network’s launch in 1996.
In his first years at Fox News, Smith was at first reluctant for an on-camera spot. When he agreed in 1999 to appear as an overnight anchor, he was surprised that he liked it.
While at Fox News, Smith quickly moved up the ranks as he covered major news events of the day including Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral, President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial, and the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
He later told People that his background as a correspondent translated well to on-air spots.
“You’re reporting from the anchor desk,” he told the outlet. “I’d never thought of it that way.”
As a rising star, Smith himself hit the headlines in November 2000, when he was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery in Tallahassee, Florida after an incident that happened while he was covering the presidential election.
A freelance reporter alleged that Smith hit her with his car when the two were arguing over a parking space, but Smith said she jumped onto his hood. The charge was eventually dropped.
“I regret that we had an argument,” he told People in 2003. “I’m just glad it’s over.”
Smith hosted programs “Fox News Report” and Studio B that turned around concise, high-speed, and engaging reporting that became his signature style at the network.
Smith said that after a few years watching other anchors at the network, he had concluded that traditional broadcasts that included drawn-out reports and multiple interviews were “old and tired.“
In 2005, Smith traveled to New Orleans to report from the ground on the devastation left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake, which officials had denied in the days after the storm.
Smith captured shocking chaos and damage during his time broadcasting from New Orleans, as he interviewed victims and lambasted local and national officials for what he called a “refugee crisis” on American soil.
Smith’s high ratings paid off in 2007 when he signed a three-year contract that reportedly promised him between $7 million and $8 million per year, launching him into the same playing field as well-known anchors like NBC’s Brian Williams.
Source: The New York Times
In 2013, it was announced that Smith would become the managing editor of Fox News’ new breaking news division and the host of “Shepard Smith Reporting.”
Source: Fox News
After his rise to the top of the network, Smith wasn’t afraid to publicly spar around issues he was passionate about and with figures he disagreed with, even if it was a fellow star anchor.
In November 2017, Smith sparked controversy when he debunked Hillary Clinton’s alleged Uranium One sale scandal on air, days after fellow Fox primetime host Sean Hannity called it one of the “biggest scandals in American history.”
Donald Trump’s election and presidency provided Smith with repeated opportunities to take issue with the administration’s stances and the network’s reporting on the president.
As the president kept up his well-documented affection for the network, Smith was one of the few top figures to take issue with some policies and comments that came out of the administration.
“I wonder,” he told a Time magazine reporter in 2018, “if I stopped delivering the facts, what would go in its place in this place that is most watched, most listened, most viewed, most trusted? I don’t know.”
One such noticeable incident came in July 2019, when Trump told four freshman Democratic representatives to “go back” to the “broken and crime-infested” countries.
The president tweeted the statement, which is the same way he often promotes talking points he picks up from Fox News itself, and Smith slammed the comment that was about women of color, all of whom are US citizens, as a “misleading and xenophobic eruption.”
In an announcement that reportedly came as a shock to much of the network, Smith signed off for the last time on October 11, 2019.
—Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) October 11, 2019
The announcement was underscored by Neil Cavuto, who anchors the broadcast immediately after Smith’s and was visibly flustered by the announcement.
“Whoa,” Cavuto said as he opened his show. “Like you, I’m a little stunned.”
Despite the apparent surprise, one staffer told CNN that “it was clear [Smith] wasn’t happy, on air and off air,” at the network, and others told the outlet he wasn’t forced out, but “wanted to leave.”
Some pointed out that the exit came one day after Attorney General William Barr met privately with media mogul and Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, but Smith insisted in his goodbye that it was his decision to leave and the Associated Press reports that Smith’s representatives “cautioned against conflating the two events.”
“I think it probably just got to be too much,” another staffer told CNN as rumors swirled online.
The 55-year-old anchor said in his goodbye that he was not retiring, but agreed with the network that he would not be working elsewhere “at least in the near future.”