Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, a frequent critic of US President Donald Trump, on Friday announced that he was stepping down effective immediately from the network after 23 years.
“Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged,” Mr Smith, said in his final newscast. “Under our agreement I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future, but I will be able to see more of Gio and [dog] Lucia and our friends and family, then we’ll see what comes along.” Gio Graziano is Mr Smith’s long-term boyfriend.
Mr Smith joined Fox News when the network began in 1996 and had served as chief news anchor and managing editor of the breaking news unit. He thanked the network on Friday, saying “the opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many.”
Mr Smith has been a frequent critic of Mr Trump and has also been a target of the president’s attacks.
As recently as Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted that Fox News was “much different than it used to be in the good old days. 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 any more”.
On Friday, after hearing that Mr Smith was departing, the president suggested he may have left because of his ratings.
Mr Smith recently traded on-air barbs with conservative political commentator and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The jousting began after Mr Smith said it was “repugnant” that Mr Carlson had not defended Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano after a guest on his show called the latter a “fool” for saying the president had broken the law.
In his final sign-off, Mr Smith added: “Even in our currently polarised nation it’s my hope that the facts will win the day. That the truth will always matter. That journalism and journalists will thrive.”
In a statement, Jay Wallace, president and executive editor of Fox News Media, said: “Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry.”
He added: “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.”
A series of rotating anchors would host the 3pm time slot until a new programme was announced, the company said.