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.
Hmmmmm. Openly gay, honest journalist Shep Smith resigns the day after CORRUPT AG Barr meets w Rupert Murdoch. https://t.co/cOmqHbZHcg— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) October 11, 2019
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 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.
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.
...Court Justice & I turned him down (he’s been terrible ever since), Shep Smith, @donnabrazile (who gave Crooked Hillary the debate questions & got fired from @CNN), & others, @FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2019
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.
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.