With Megyn Kelly no longer on the air occasionally pushing back against President Trump's treatment of women, Fox News viewers are channeling their ire toward Shepard Smith, who anchors the news and opinion network's afternoon and breaking news coverage. "Smith's persistent fact-mongering has made him persona non grata among some parts of the Fox News faithful," says Paul Farhi at The Washington Post.
Smith's past comments affirming human-influenced climate change, supporting same-sex marriage, urging reasoned calm on terrorism and disease, and defending rival network CNN from "fake news" attacks from Trump have raised hackles among some network viewers, but it was this throwing cold water on Andrew Napolitano's theory about Britain wiretapping Trump that really "made him an apostate to the conservative Fox News orthodoxy," Farhi says.
Shep Smith: "Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that POTUS was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop." pic.twitter.com/GxKSJJGD7D
— Axios (@axios) March 17, 2017
Neither Fox News nor Smith, who has been with the network since 1996, responded to The Washington Post's request for comment, but as Smith-haters are pushing for his firing on social media, two theories are gaining traction: Smith is on his way out and feeling free to speak his mind, or Fox News actually wants Smith to put a bit of space between the network and Trump.
"If I'm Fox News, I would view [Smith's commentary] as a good thing right now," said Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson University political scientist who wrote a book on Fox News, espousing the second theory. "It builds the credibility of a news organization," as the Murdoch clan wants for their network. Besides, he adds, since Trump fans have no other cable-news options, "Fox isn't worried about its ratings."
Subscribing to the first theory is Tim Graham at the conservative Media Research Center, who argues that Smith is set to bolt to CNN or MSNBC. "His aggressive defense of the liberal media suggests he's looking at Greta Van Susteren and saying, 'Yeah, I could do that,'" Graham told The Post. "To me, it sounds like he's advertising to other networks. It just seems bizarre for him to be sticking up for CNN and MSNBC. It's like Jif peanut butter taking an ad sticking up for Skippy." You can read more about the war on Shep at The Washington Post. Peter Weber