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Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith

Monday is media day in The Australian. But the biggest US media story of the weekend was nowhere to be seen in today’s edition.

At the start of his program on Friday (early Saturday, Australian time), longtime Fox News anchor and reporter Shepard Smith — a frequent critic (and frequent target) of US President Donald Trump — made a shock on-air resignation announcement.

American news website The Daily Beast reported that Smith had grown tired of being criticised by his more conservative, Trump-loving colleagues. Other outlets suggested he was removed at the behest of the White House. The New York Times reported a meeting on Wednesday night between Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and US Attorney-General William Barr. Barr is the guy running all those inquiries trying to prove Trump innocent in the Russian-influenced election scandal. The Morrison government has promised to help.

“The timing of the meeting — as Trump, under siege from Democrats, ramps up his criticism of Fox News — raised eyebrows, leading to questions about whether the administration is attempting to get the network back in line,” Vanity Fair reported.

Fox News later tried to play down conspiracy theories about Smith’s departures and the involvement of Murdoch. Smith, who had been at Fox News for 23 years, said he was leaving of his own accord, saying on his program: “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.”

Trump tweeted his pleasure at the weekend, asking if Smith was leaving because of low ratings. But Deadline.com pointed out that Smith’s afternoon news and chat show, while not drawing the same numbers as after-dark barkers such as Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, attracted far more viewers than Trump’s beloved Fox & Friends.

Smith’s departure leaves Chris Wallace as the last high-profile independent (i.e. not a Trump partisan) host on Fox News. Best of luck to him.

Peter Fray

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Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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