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Shepard Smith is leaving Fox News Channel

Fox News Channel chief news anchor Shepard

 Fox News Channel chief news anchor Shepard Smith appears on the set of "Shepard Smith Reporting" in New York in 2017.  Credit: AP/Richard Drew

Shepard Smith, one of Fox News Channel's best-known anchors and an original hire on the network at its launch 23 years ago, announced Friday that he will leave effective immediately.

The surprise announcement came just as Smith, 55, wrapped his 3 p.m. broadcast, with Fox simultaneously releasing a statement: "This afternoon’s edition of 'Shepard Smith Reporting' was Mr. Smith’s final show, during which he addressed his decision. A series of rotating anchors will host the 3PM/ET time slot until a new dayside news program is announced."

In his own statement, Smith said, “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. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many."

 On the air, Smith said, "I won’t be reporting elsewhere at least in the near future." He closed with this: "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."

A Fox spokeswoman declined further comment.

As regular viewers know, Smith has long been at ideological odds with some of the network's other prominent on-air personalities, most notably Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. He's been pointedly critical of President Donald Trump, and occasionally of other anchors on the network. He publicly sparred with Hannity last year, with Hannity calling him "clueless," and Smith responding, ""I get it, that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that. I don't work there. I wouldn't work there."

Nevertheless, the network's founder and longtime chief, Roger Ailes — who died in 2017 a year after leaving the network in the wake of sexual harassment allegations --- allowed Smith considerable latitude on the network's afternoon air. He was also appointed managing editor and chief news anchor in 2013, a role that expanded his power base throughout the day and into the night.

 Mississippi native Smith — who came out publicly as gay in 2017 — joined Fox at launch in 1996 after a career in local TV news and a brief run at tabloid TV magazine "A Current Affair."

He arrived at Fox with a reputation as a hard charger who had clashed with former colleagues, telling Newsday in 2002, "I'm passionate about this business and the story I'm going to put on the air, and people who are getting in the way of that need to get out of the way." But his style synced up with Ailes' and he was quickly put on an anchor fast-track.

Jay Wallace, Fox News president, said in a statement Friday, “Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry."

Wallace added, While this day is especially difficult as his former producer, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network.”

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