Shepard Smith, a long-time anchor for the Fox News Channel, signed a new multi-year contract on Thursday, when he stated during an interview with Joe Concha, a media reporter for The Hill political website, that opinion programming on his network doesn't “really have rules” and exists “strictly to be entertaining.”
However, the 54-year-old reporter who has been with the cable television channel since it was founded in 1996, has been critical of the “opinion programming” that airs on the network, claiming that those shows don't “really have rules” and exist “strictly to be entertaining.”
FNC Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement released on March 15 that Smith “is an exemplary journalist whose skill in anchoring breaking news is unrivaled. His powerful storytelling on both television and digital platforms has elevated our entire news-gathering process.”
The host of the weekday program Shepard Smith Reporting will continue to serve as the FNC chief news anchor and managing editor of breaking news. He said in the deal’s announcement that he is "honored to continue to call Fox News my home."
“I am incredibly proud to be part of a group of journalists who helped build the Fox news division from scratch 22 years ago and extremely thankful for the opportunity to continue to lead our breaking news coverage for years to come," the anchor added.
"Our team’s commitment to delivering facts to our loyal viewers in context and with perspective, without fear or favor, is unwavering,” Smith continued. “The investment that Mr. Murdoch has infused into our already strong news division affords us endless opportunities.”
In an article also posted on Thursday, Concha quoted the announcement as stating:
Smith’s highly relatable reporting has been a trademark of the network since it launched.
He has covered virtually every major news story over the course of his career as both a correspondent and an anchor, playing a major role in the network’s innovation of the way news is presented.
According to Nielsen Media Research, Smith’s program -- which airs at 3 o’clock on weekday afternoons -- averages 1.6 million viewers and 335,000 in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers covet most, topping CNN and MSNBC in both categories.
However, Smith has made some comments that have irritated the hosts of what he referred to as “opinion programming” on the cable TV channel.
During an interview with Time magazine’s Daniel D'Addario -- which was entitled “Shep Smith Has the Hardest Job on Fox News” -- the anchor was quoted as saying: “We serve different masters.”
“We work for different reporting chains; we have different rules,” he noted. “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," Smith continued. "I’m busy.”
As proof of that claim, D'Addario begins his article by stating: “When the countdown to Smith’s hour of airtime arrives at 2:59, it’s just a number.”
“Smith silently sits at his anchor chair, watching White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders field questions from reporters in what’s become a near-daily occurrence: His show is getting pre-empted by the most popular political drama in America,” the Time reporter noted.
In another portion of the interview, the FNC newsman responded to critics who claim he's injecting too many of his own political opinions into what is supposed to be a straight news program.
“I know that there are people who come at everything in a political way,” he added. “I don’t. I’ve never really liked politics.”
Smith also stated: “I’ve always said that I thought politics in America was weird and creepy, and lacked a connection to reality.”
That disconnect has strained the relationship between the newsman and prime-time host Sean Hannity, who claimed that Smith is “clueless” about what happens on their channel during weeknights.
In an article posted by Josh Delk on Friday, Hannity is quoted as posting a tweet that says: "While Shep is a friend with political views I do not share and great at breaking news, he is clueless about what we do every day.”
Delk also noted:
Smith has stood out at the network as an occasional critic of stories promoted by Fox's opinion personalities.
In November, for example, he criticized the reporting around the sale of mining company Uranium One to a Russian state-owned entity, which was frequently promoted by Hannity.
Judging by the newsman’s new contract and the popularity of the weeknight opinion hosts, it looks like they’ll just have to get along and "settle" for substantial paychecks for at least the next few years.