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Fox News anchor Shepard Smith broadcasts in New York on May 24, 2011. (AP/Drew) Fox News anchor Shepard Smith broadcasts in New York on May 24, 2011. (AP/Drew)

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith broadcasts in New York on May 24, 2011. (AP/Drew)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy October 14, 2019

There’s no proof that Barr played a role in Shepard Smith’s Fox News departure

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith announced Oct. 11 that he was stepping away from the network after 23 years. 

But there’s no evidence that Smith’s departure was connected to a meeting two days earlier between Attorney General William Barr and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the channel’s founder, despite what some social media posts have implied.

"Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr had a closed door meeting with Rupert Murdoch and the very next day Shepard Smith, one of the only voices on Fox News that is critical of Trump steps down after 23 years," said an Oct. 11 Facebook meme posted by The Other 98%, a progressive activist group focused on combating corporate greed. "But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence!"

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The meme did not explicitly accuse Barr of forcing Smith’s ouster, but it misleadingly implied that his meeting with Murdoch played at least some role in the matter. Several other public figures, such as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and comedian Kathy Griffin, also speculated on Twitter about a link between the Barr-Murdoch meeting and Smith’s exit.

But Chris Giglio, Smith’s personal spokesperson, told the New York Times that "there is absolutely no truth" to the notion that the Barr-Murdoch meeting precipitated Smith’s departure. 

"This was Shep’s decision and his alone," Giglio told the New York Times. "He’s taking an extended period of time off to be with his family. Following that who knows — he is not retiring."

CNN’s Brian Stelter and Fox News’s Howard Kurtz both swatted down the idea that Murdoch ushered Smith out at Barr’s behest, as well.

CNN reported that Smith asked Fox News management for a way out of his multi-year contract in September, well before Barr’s meeting with Murdoch. Smith was reportedly frustrated by attacks the network’s primetime opinion hosts were making against the news division.

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One of Fox’s original hires in 1996, Smith was most recently the network’s chief news anchor and managing editor of breaking news. He hosted "Shepard Smith Reporting" on weekday afternoons and frequently drew President Donald Trump’s ire for his reporting.

Smith announced his departure during his show, expressing thanks for the opportunities his career at Fox News gave him and hope "that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, (and) that journalism and journalists will thrive."

"Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News," Smith said on air, echoing a formal statement he made in the network’s press release. "After requesting that I stay, they obliged. Under our agreement, I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future."

The private meeting between Barr and Murdoch occurred Oct. 9, according to the New York Times. It’s not clear who was present or what was discussed, and Fox News and the Justice Department did not respond to our requests for comment. 

For what it’s worth, we’ve seen false internet posts in the past that suggested Smith was ousted for being critical of Trump. We rated one such claim Pants on Fire in 2018.

The Other 98% did not respond to our requests for comment.

Our ruling

A Facebook meme said Fox News anchor Shepard Smith stepped down after Attorney General William Barr "had a closed door meeting with Rupert Murdoch."

There’s no evidence that Smith’s departure was in any way connected to the Barr-Murdoch meeting, although little is known about what happened at the meeting. Smith’s spokesperson told the New York Times that the anchor came to the decision on his own.

We will re-evaluate this statement if the facts change. But based on what we know about the Barr-Murdoch meeting and Smith's decision, we’ll rate this statement False.

Our Sources

The Other 98% on Facebook, Oct. 11, 2019

Fox News on YouTube, "Shepard Smith says goodbye to Fox News," Oct. 11, 2019

Mediaite, "Brian Stelter Slams ‘Left-Wing Conspiracies’ Connecting Shep Smith’s Fox Resignation with Barr-Murdoch Meeting," Oct. 13, 2019

Mediaite, "Howard Kurtz Calls Out ‘Wild Conspiracy Theories’ About Shep Smith’s Departure From Fox News," Oct. 13, 2019

Fox News, "Shepard Smith steps down from Fox News: 'It’s been an honor and a privilege,'" Oct. 12, 2019

Press release from Fox News, "Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith to Step Down as Chief News Anchor and Managing Editor of Breaking News Unit," Oct. 11, 2019

Vanity Fair, "Shep Smith Stresses Fox News Exit Was His Own Decision," Oct. 12, 2019

CNN, "Why Shep Smith finally walked out of Fox News for good," Oct. 12, 2019

The New York Times, "Shepard Smith, Fox News Anchor, Abruptly Departs From Network," Oct. 11, 2019

The Daily Beast, "Shepard Smith Leaving Fox News After Clashes With Colleagues," Oct. 11, 2019

Politico, "Trump target at Fox News announces his departure," Oct. 11, 2019

The Washington Post, "Shepard Smith, Fox News veteran anchor and frequent Trump target, abruptly resigns from the network," Oct. 11, 2019

The Daily Caller, "MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Floats, Then Deletes Theory On Shepard Smith’s Fox News Departure," Oct. 11, 2019

The Washington Examiner, "Shepard Smith spokesman denies his exit was tied to recent Barr-Murdoch meeting," Oct. 11, 2019

Michael M. Grynbaum on Twitter, Oct. 11, 2019

The New York Times, "Trump Lashes Out at Fox News Poll as Barr Meets With Murdoch," Oct. 10, 2019

Donald J. Trump on Twitter, Oct. 10, 2019

Press release from Fox News, "Fox News Channel Re-Signs Shepard Smith to Multiyear Deal," March 15, 2018

PolitiFact, "Hoax continues to circulate that Fox's Shepard Smith was fired for Trump comments," June 13, 2018

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There’s no proof that Barr played a role in Shepard Smith’s Fox News departure

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