The Fox News anchor, the frequent subject of President Trump's Twitter attacks due to his criticism of the president's administration, announced at the end of his show Friday that he was leaving the cable news network, effectively immediately. Smith was one of Fox News' first hires, joining the cable news network as a correspondent before its launch in October 1996. Smith's exit comes two days after Attorney General William Barr privately met with Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday. "Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave FOX News and begin a new chapter. After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged," Smith said in a statement. "The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor. I’ve worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I’m proud to have anchored their work each day—I will deeply miss them.” Smith said he doesn't plan to immediately join another rival news outlet. Smith has drawn the ire of the president, who tweeted that he was Fox News' "lowest-rated anchor" in March. As The New York Times notes, "the tension between Mr. Smith and some of his Fox News colleagues burst into open view last month as the impeachment inquiry was getting started. Mr. Smith denounced a guest on Tucker Carlson’s program for making “repugnant” comments about a Fox News legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano. Mr. Carlson fired back at Mr. Smith with a not-so-subtle suggestion of bias, saying, 'Unlike maybe some dayside hosts, I’m not very partisan.'" Smith's exit blindsided Neil Cavuto, who said "woah" at the start of his show minutes after Smith's announcement. "Like you, I'm a little stunned and a little heartbroken. I don't know what to say," Cavuto said, calling Smith a decent human being.
President Trump gloats over Shepard Smith's departure: A reporter asked the president, “Did you or your administration pressure Fox News to get rid of Shepard Smith?” To which Trump responded: “No, I don’t know, is he leaving? Oh, that’s a shame.” He added: “Did I hear Shepard Smith is leaving? Is he leaving because of bad ratings? He had terrible ratings, is he leaving because of his ratings? If he’s leaving, I assume he’s leaving because he had bad ratings.” Trump concluded: "Well, I wish him well. I wish Shepard Smith well.”
Smith's exit shocks and saddens his Fox News colleagues -- even Sean Hannity pays tribute: "I’ve always said there is nobody better at breaking news than Shep Smith," tweeted Hannity. "He has always done great things and I know he will continue to do so. Looking forward to seeing Shep crush it in whatever he does next." Bret Hume tweeted: "Shep Smith has been there from the beginning and was the most talented breaking news anchor I ever saw. Fox News Channel will not be the same without him." Brett Baier recalled working on his first assignment with Smith nearly 23 years ago. "It was a total shock today to find out he’s leaving," Baier tweeted. "He anchored breaking news -fast-moving events —better than anyone. I wish him well in whatever lies ahead."