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Smith leaves Fox News after being let out of contract

NEW YORK — Shepard Smith, whose newscast on Fox News Channel seemed increasingly an outlier on an outlet dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump, abruptly quit after signing off his final newscast last week.

Smith, who had signed a contract extension last spring, said that he had asked the network to let him out of his deal and it had agreed.

“Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive,” he said.

His departure comes one day after Attorney General William Barr met privately with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox News, although Smith’s representatives cautioned against conflating the two events.

Trump has been increasingly critical of personalities on Fox News that he views as disloyal. Last week, the president cited Smith and Fox analysts Andrew Napolitano and Donna Brazile in a tweet that said, “Fox News doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be.”

Neil Cavuto, who anchors the broadcast following Smith’s, looked shocked after the announcement.

“Whoa,” Cavuto said. “Like you, I’m a little stunned.”

Smith was one of Fox News Channel’s original hires in 1996, and was a particular favorite of Roger Ailes, the former Fox chairman who was ousted in 2016 following misconduct charges and died the following spring. While he often angered many of Fox’s conservative viewers, Smith’s work was most prominently cited by the network when it received criticism for being too partisan.

On his afternoon newscast, Smith had frequently given tough reports debunking statements made by Trump and his supporters — even the Fox News opinion hosts that rule the network’s prime-time lineup.

Smith, 55, said he is not retiring, although his agreement with Fox will forbid him from working elsewhere “at least in the near future.”

Fox said that a news broadcast would continue in its 3 p.m. hour with rotating substitute anchors.

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