Gay Anchor Shepard Smith Abruptly Quits Fox News After 23 Years

"Even in our current polarized nation, it's my hope that facts will win the day."

This is Shepard Smith, signing off.

Smith, who started working at Fox News when it launched in 1996, has stepped down as anchor of Shepard Smith Reporting, as well as from his role as chief news anchor and managing editor of the conservative cable network's breaking news unit.

Despite extending his Fox News contract, which had reportedly reached $15 million a year, in March 2018, Smith announced Friday during the afternoon edition of Shepard Smith Reporting that it would be his final show.

"The opportunities afforded this guy from small-town Mississippi have been many," Smith said on-air. "Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged."

"Under our agreement, I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future," he explained, adding that he would instead spend more time with his partner, Giovanni Graziano, and their dog. "But I will be able to see more of Gio and Lucia and our friends and family, and then we'll see what comes along. This is my last newscast here."

"Even in our current polarized nation," he concluded, "it's my hope that facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive."

Smith's abrupt departure, which visibly shocked some of his colleagues, follows reported infighting between the network’s news and opinion divisions, exacerbated by the threat of impeachment in response to President Trump asking Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Smith's reporting, which was impartial or critical of the Trump administration, had increasingly put him at odds with more right-wing and pro-Trump Fox News pundits like Tucker Carlson.

Smith’s resignation also comes days after a meeting held between Bill Barr, Trump's attorney general, and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. Trump named Smith this week in a tweet complaining that the network was “much different than it used to be in the good old days.”

“Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry," Fox News president Jay Wallace said in a statement. "His integrity and outstanding reporting from the field helped put Fox News on the map and there is simply no better breaking news anchor who has the ability to transport a viewer to a place of conflict, tragedy, despair or elation through his masterful delivery.”

Smith publicly addressed his sexuality for the first time in 2016, becoming Fox News' only out gay anchor. He denied that Fox News execs like ousted CEO Roger Ailes had forced him to stay in the closet.

"I didn’t think I was in," Smith later said of his sexuality during a 2017 talk at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. "It’s not a thing. I go to work. I manage a lot of people. I cover the news. I deal with holy hell around me. I go home to the man I’m in love with."

Smith was married to a woman from 1987 to 1993. Prior to 2016, Smith's sexuality was treated as an open secret by the media: Out included him in its Power 50 list and he even attended the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association gala.

In 2012 Smith famously asked anti-LGBTQ politician Rick Santorum, who had compared homosexuality to bestiality, "How long do you think it’ll be until you catch up with the rest of the country and realize everybody’s okay?"

Rotating anchors will replace Smith on Fox News in his afternoon time slot until a new program is announced.

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