Fox News is standing by Shepard Smith, the veteran newsman whose on- and off-air comments have frequently drawn criticism from the network’s largely conservative audience.
In a statement announcing Smith’s contract with Fox News has been extended with a new multi-year offer, Fox News Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch called him an “exemplary journalist whose skill in anchoring breaking news is unrivaled.”
The broadcaster, who is one of a few of the personalities hired when the network launched in 1996 to remain under contract, has made a name for himself as an anchor unaffected by the opinion programming that flanks his daily news program.
As he explained in a recent Time interview, Smith sees his job as wholly unaffiliated with shows like “Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which unambiguously feature the political opinions of their outspoken hosts.
“We serve different masters,” he said, contrasting his motives and those of the network’s opinion hosts. “We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules.”
On the opinion side of the business, Smith said that there are no strict rules on content.
“They can say whatever they want,” he said. “If it’s their opinion.”
Such an environment “sounds horrible” to Smith, he said, explaining that he would not accept a broadcast job in that sector of the industry.
“I wouldn’t work there,” he said. “I don’t want to sit around and yell at each other and talk about your philosophy and my philosophy.”
As a journalist, Smith has been clear that he is interested in dealing with facts — even when they present a conflict with the stated opinions of some others on the same network.
In November, he presented a six-minute rebuttal of a long-held belief among critics of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she improperly approved the transfer of uranium from the U.S. to Russia as part of a deal that ultimately benefited her family financially.
While opinion hosts including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson routinely harped on what they presented as damning evidence of corruption, Smith earned rebuke from network loyalists — and praise from some Fox News detractors — when he dismissed the narrative as a theory unsupported by evidence.
“The nine department heads all approved the sale of Uranium One,” he said of the scandal. “It was unanimous, not a Hillary Clinton approval.”
Smith’s fact-checking segment included the assertion that reporters “don’t know definitively whether Secretary Clinton participated at all directly.”
He went on to express some concern about the broadcaster Fox News could bring in to replace him, noting that the issue played a role in his decision to stay.
“To stop doing it would be bad because I think that there is a need for it and I know the degree to which we care about it and focus on it and we want it to be as perfect as it can be,” he said. “And 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.”
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