Shepard Smith announced Friday that he is stepping down as the network’s chief news anchor, leaving it without a daytime newsman who frequently ran against the grain of its right-wing primetime hosts.
"This is my last newscast here," Smith said during his Friday broadcast, adding that he recently asked Fox News to let him leave. "After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged.”
Smith, 55, consistently challenged the network’s pro-Trump tilt in recent years. Although he has increasingly clashed with opinion hosts in their at-times sycophantic rationalizations of President Trump’s conduct, he did not indicate Friday that the friction contributed to his decision.
In a statement announcing Smith’s departure, President and Executive Editor of Fox News Media Jay Wallace called the anchor “one of the premier newscasters of his generation.”
“His integrity and outstanding reporting 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,” Wallace added.
Smith started with Fox News the year it launched, in 1996, and his star rose after he tore into the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He earned the respect of staunchly conservative Fox News boss Roger Ailes for his reporting. And he continued broadcasting as an openly gay man despite the network’s conservative lean.
The anchor’s announcement appears to have caught some of his colleagues at Fox News off guard. On his own program on Friday afternoon, Fox News host Neil Cavuto was visibly shaken, telling viewers, “I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken.”
“A better newsman you probably cannot find,” Cavuto added. “Shepard, I don’t know what the heck you’re planning to do, or where you go, but I just know you’ll be great at doing it. And you deserve the best that life has to offer. So I’m sorry if I”m a little shell-shocked here, but I’m going to miss my buddy.”
When Cavuto threw his show to a segment about trade with Fox News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts, Roberts also seemed floored by the news.
“Neil, I walked out to do the hit and suddenly got hit by a subway train,” Roberts said. “Holy mackerel!”
Here's his final sign-off:
Cover: In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 photo, Shepard Smith talks to his crew before a taping of the Shepard Smith Reporting program on the Fox News Channel in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)