Shepard Smith’s new CNBC show is called simply The News. And with that in mind, the former Fox News anchor is trying his best to play everything right down the middle.
Ahead of his premiere this Wednesday, Smith appeared on his new network colleague Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, where he offered up a series of non-committal, both-sides takes on the biggest news events of the week.
Smith got in one joke about Donald Trump writing off $70,000 in hairstyling expenses but otherwise said he didn’t expect the bombshell report on the president’s tax returns to change any voters’ minds. He similarly had little to say about the coming Supreme Court fight, telling Fallon, “Whether it’ll affect the election or not, it probably will, you just don’t know which way it’s going to play.”
“Will conservatives be so happy about it that they come out and vote for more?” he asked. “Or will Democrats and people on the left say we can’t let this happen again and come out and vote in bigger numbers? I don’t think we’ll know until we know.”
The anchor said definitively that there is no evidence of widespread fraud in vote-by-mail, but couldn’t bring himself to criticize Trump for refusing to agree to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose, only saying, “I’m not exactly sure what it is he is trying to accomplish.”
Smith’s strongest convictions seemed to come when Fallon asked about Tuesday’s night debate, which will be moderated by his former Fox colleague Chris Wallace.
“I expect Chris Wallace to be prepared,” Smith said. “Nobody who has watched Chris Wallace thinks [anything] other than that he is a very tough, very thoroughly prepared journalist. And he has said repeatedly over the years, to me and publicly, ‘My job is to stay out of the way and be unnoticed as much as possible.’”
“But he’s not one to let a falsehood or a misrepresentation or a ‘look over here’ kind of shiny object thing just slide by the way,” he continued. “He will hold them [accountable]. Both of them. He’s not a partisan guy. He’s searching for truth. He’s trying to speak truth to power. And trying to get information to the public. That’s what all journalists want to do.”
It’s the same thing Smith is trying to do at CNBC after spending 23 long years at Fox News. “We’re not going to have pundits, we’re not going to have opinion,” he said. “We’ll bring you facts. The facts, the truth, the news.”
“Sometimes people live in a world of just lies,” he added. “And when that’s happening and it rises to the public discourse, we’ll point it out.” Drawing an implicit contrast with Fox, Smith said, “We want to be a source of truth and honesty and we’ll hold truth to power because that is our job.”
“The Founding Fathers didn’t only put journalism in the Constitution for no reason,” he said. “They put it there because it is important and journalists have a responsibility to get it right and tell it straight and that’s what we’re going to do.”