Since leaving Fox News in late 2019, and joining CNBC several months later, Shepard Smith has been incredibly diplomatic when it came to discussing the conservative news network that served as his home for nearly a quarter of a century. But his reluctance to speak out against Fox just ran into a formidable obstacle: Christiane Amanpour.
During an interview set to air Tuesday night on PBS, Smith delivered his harshest criticism yet of his former employer under relentless questioning from the host.
Smith, who anchored one of the few truly “straight news” programs on Fox’s schedule, explained that he stayed with the network so long because he felt a sense of responsibility to counter the “mis- or disinformation” that viewers were getting at most other hours of the day.
Knowing that if he left he would likely be replaced with yet another opinion host, Smith said he felt it would be “selfish” for him to “abandon” his viewers and “stuck with it” for as long as he could. “And at some point, I realized I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns and I left,” he said.
His departure followed months of public clashes with colleagues like Sean Hannity, who called him “so anti-Trump” on his radio show and “clueless” on Twitter and Tucker Carlson, who openly mocked Smith on his primetime show for defending their mutual colleague Judge Andrew Napolitano.
When Smith said he was “proud” of the journalistic work he was able to put out at Fox, Amanpour pushed back by pointing to the news that his former 7 p.m. time slot is about to become yet another opinion-focused show, just as he had feared. “You can be proud of you did,” she said, but now that he’s at CNBC she wanted to know if he accepts the notion that Fox News “perpetuated so many of the divisions, the lies, the conspiracies,” becoming essentially “the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.”
“I feel the same way about that now that I did then,” Smith replied, admitting that his goal was to “keep the blinders on” and try to deliver real news to his viewers. He said people can “opine” as much as they want to, “but if you’re going to opine, begin with the truth and opine from there.”
“And it’s the deviation from that that’s caused me the greatest concern,” he continued. “And I believe that when people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that’s injurious to society. And it’s the antithesis of what we should be doing. Those of us who are so honored and grateful to have a platform of influence have to use it for the public good.”
Then, without naming any specific names, Smith added, “I slept very well. I don’t know how some people sleep at night. Because I know there are a lot of people who propagated the lies and have pushed them forward over and over again, who are smart enough and educated enough to know better.”
Smith concluded by saying that he hopes “at some point, those who have done us harm as a nation and, I might even add as a world, will look around and realize what they’re done.”
“But I’m not holding my breath,” he added.