The Real Reason Why Shepard Smith Is Leaving Fox News

Veteran broadcast journalist Shepard "Shep" Smith sent shockwaves throughout news rooms across America when he announced his departure from Fox News in October 2019. Smith, who'd worked at the channel since its inception in 1996 as a chief anchor of the news division, delivered his goodbye message on-air to the dismay of his loyal viewers. After detailing how he'd asked Fox News to release him from his contract, Smith issued a passionate plea about the state of journalism, telling supporters: "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."

Of course, this isn't your average case of a longtime TV news anchor moving on to greener pastures. Smith's exit comes after years of sparring with other employees at Fox News. Shepard Smith has also sparred plenty with President Donald Trump. But this story isn't all about Trump, and we have a lot of compelling info to share with you on the real reason why Shepard Smith is leaving Fox News.

Fox News didn't want to lose Shepard Smith

Before you get the idea that Fox News wanted Shepard Smith out thanks to his unbiased reporting, think again. "Executives at the network leaned on him to stay, but to no avail," journalist Brian Stelter reported for CNN, adding, "He announced his departure on the air, then exited the building immediately, clearly emotional about saying goodbye to his television home of twenty years." 

Smith's own take echoed this reporting, with the journalist noting how Fox News was eager for him to remain at the network: "Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged." Although we can't imagine it was always smooth sailing between these two parties, it's reasonable to assume Fox News was sad to see one of their most reputable reporters exit the building.

Bottom line? Smith wasn't forced out and 100 percent left on his own terms.

... but Fox News execs didn't work overtime to keep him

Although execs at Fox News wanted to keep Shepard Smith on the team, they reportedly didn't work overtime to keep him either. That's because Smith's ratings were supposedly lower than some of his colleagues, like political commentators Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Despite Fox News' efforts to "appease" Smith, they ultimately felt it wasn't worth their time to go above and beyond to do so. According to The Daily Beast, "A source close to Fox News management said the thinking among network brass was that the lucrative evening ratings outweighed the need to keep Smith happy while paying him $15 million a year for his daytime role that did not bring in as many viewers."

Still, this doesn't mean his bosses didn't admire him. "Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry," Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor of Fox News Media, released in a statement to the media outlet. "While this day is especially difficult as his former producer, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network."

Speaking of those Shepard Smith ratings

Shepard Smith's news reporting didn't garner the same high ratings as his opinionated colleagues, like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. That being said, however, his ratings were good overall. "Fox News is the most-watched cable news network, and Smith beat out his 3PM time slot competitors on other networks, including CNN and MSNBC, by double-digit Nielsen Media Research ratings," the Business Insider reported about Smith's performance. Translation: The managing editor of the breaking news division didn't leave because he was embarrassed about supposed poor ratings.

Still, this truth didn't stop President Donald Trump from bashing Smith for his so-called bad ratings. "I don't know. Is he leaving? That's a shame," Trump told reporters after the news of Smith's departure broke, according to The Hill. "Is he leaving because of bad ratings? If he's leaving, I assume he's leaving because he had bad ratings. He had the worst ratings at Fox." After giving the reporter a dressing down, Trump added, "I wish Shepard Smith well." Oy.

Smith wasn't impressed with Fox News' opinion team

In the evenings, Fox News switches from regular news reporting to opinion shows hosted by the likes of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Jeanine Pirro, to name a few faces. However, it's safe to say that Shepard Smith wasn't necessarily happy with this division, telling Time in 2018: "We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don't really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. If it's their opinion. I don't really watch a lot of opinion programming. I'm busy." Ouch.

The news anchor also said he would "never" work for the opinion division, adding, "I get it that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that. I don't work there. I wouldn't work there. I don't want to sit around and yell at each other and talk about your philosophy and my philosophy. That sounds horrible to me." 

Considering Fox News' opinion division isn't going anywhere, it's reasonable to theorize that Smith was tired of working at a network where some colleagues didn't have to play by the "rules."

Sean Hannity dissed Shepard Smith

While Shepard Smith might not think too highly of Fox News' opinion division, it seems as though the feeling is mutual. Case in point: In 2017, Hannity host Sean Hannity slammed Smith, stating in a radio interview: "Shep is a friend, I like him, but he's so anti-Trump. I mean, he went off on a rant last week. That's fine." The dig was noticeable, because a reporter can't be anti-anything, per say — Smith's job was to report on the facts, no matter who he favored. After all, journalists aren't supposed to work for presidents, right? 

In response to Hannity's jab, Smith released in a statement to Mediaite: "Sometimes facts are displeasing. Journalists report them without fear or favor." And although Smith handled the situation like a class act, we imagine it must have been a tad grueling to be labeled as "anti-Trump" for simply doing your job. There's only so much a person can take, after all. 

Smith's feud with Tucker Carlson boiled over

In case you didn't know already, former Fox News colleagues Tucker Carlson and Shepard Smith didn't get along. However, their ongoing feud reached a breaking point in September 2019, when Smith called a certain segment of Carlson's show "repugnant." It all came to a head when Carlson's guest, pro-Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, slammed one of Smith's analysts, Judge Andrew Napolitano, for calling President Donald Trump's phone call with the President of Ukraine "criminal." DiGenova referred to Judge Napolitano as a "fool," a jab Carlson didn't question or challenge. 

The exchange didn't sit well with Smith, who later said on-air (via TheWrap): "Last night on this network during prime time opinion programming, a partisan guest who supports President Trump was asked about Judge Napolitano's legal assessment and when he was asked, he said unchallenged 'Judge Napolitano is a fool.' Attacking our colleague, who is here to offer legal assessments, on our air in our work home is repugnant."

Carlson fired back on his own show, seemingly taking aim at Smith with this take: "Now, unlike maybe some dayside hosts, I'm not very partisan. It doesn't seem honest to me when a host, any host on any channel, including this one, pretends that the answer is obvious. That's not news, is it? That's opinion."

We can't say for certain, but we wouldn't be surprised if Smith left in order to end his feud with Carlson.

Did Smith catch heat for his comments about Carlson?

Clearly, Shepard Smith took a big stand when he challenged Tucker Carlson for his beef with Judge Andrew Napolitano. As for Fox News' response? Network execs reportedly didn't like the take down, even though Smith arguably had good intentions. Vanity Fair reported in late September 2019 that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace supposedly "communicated to Smith" to "stop attacking Carlson," with a source claiming, "They said if he does it again, he's off the air." It should be noted that a spokesperson for the news network later "denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith." Hm.

Either way, Smith supposedly felt like Fox News didn't have his back during the feud. "The network's lack of a vocal defense for Smith following the incident bothered him and the whole episode factored into his decision to leave, according to a person familiar with the matter," Brian Stelter reported for CNN

Even if the silence wasn't personal, we imagine it sent a clear message to Smith about where the network's loyalty lies. 

This veteran news anchor is committed to the truth

Above all else, news anchor Shepard Smith is committed to the truth and reporting the facts. This is one possible reason why he decided to leave Fox News, with a source telling CNN: "It's never been about the money for Shep. It's about the truth." Smith echoed this sentiment in a past interview with Time, stating about the direction of Fox News: "I wonder 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."

Considering Fox News has received criticism for the nature of its reporting throughout the years (especially during the Trump era), it would be understandable if Smith couldn't hold up his end of the bargain any longer. One staffer told CNN that "it was clear [Smith] wasn't happy, on air and off air," while another claimed, "I think it probably just got to be too much."

No matter what inspired Smith to leave, it's clear he's fully moving on from Fox News.

Shepard Smith will be okay no matter what

Although it's sad to see an accomplished journalist depart from Fox News in a seemingly sudden fashion, it's important to remember that Shepard Smith will be okay no matter what. Not only does the Mississippi native have a loving boyfriend to lean on for support, but he'll likely have plenty of work opportunities to choose from going forward. Smith's rep said as much in a statement to Deadline following his departure, explaining, "He will be taking an extended period of time off to be with his family. Following that — who knows — he is not retiring." Despite Smith's statement noting how his exit deal with Fox News will keep him off the air for a bit, an insider told The Daily Beast that Smith reportedly "expects to have a new job within a year."

What's more? Smith retains the respect from his newsroom colleagues, with many staffers telling CNN he was a "role model." And on that note, we wish good luck to Smith going forward.