Shepard Smith on Leaving Fox News and How His New CNBC Show Will Be Different

By A.J. Katz 

Nearly one year ago, Shepard Smith stunned the industry by abruptly exiting Fox News Channel after a 23-year run as the most celebrated member of the network’s news division.

Smith’s departure reportedly stemmed from clashes with at least one Fox News colleague from the opinion space, and non-stop taunts from the commander-in-chief, who consistently went off on the Fox News 3 p.m. anchor for coverage he didn’t like.

Nine months after his exit, the veteran broadcaster shocked the industry a second time by joining the business news-oriented cable network CNBC as its first-ever chief general news anchor and chief breaking general news anchor. He also serves as anchor and executive editor of The News With Shepard Smith, a daily newscast that debuts tomorrow, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC.


The News With Shepard Smith will be an hour-long “news of the day” program that will serve as a bridge between the network’s signature daytime investor-focused news programming and its business-oriented entertainment programming in prime time. Mad Money with Jim Cramer is Smith’s lead-in at 6 p.m., while the 8 p.m. hour is often comprised of Shark Tank re-runs.

This show is going to be a challenge from the jump. Imagine launching a daily newscast from scratch on a network not accustomed to this sort of thing, in the middle of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic where many of the show’s producers have worked together mostly via Zoom and not in person. Plus, it premieres the night after the first presidential debate.

While all of this might sound rough, if there’s anyone who can handle chaos in news, it’s Smith. After all, he was a key cog in the rise of a little 1996 startup named the Fox News Channel. “I wish we had another month, but what startup doesn’t wish that?” Smith told TVNewser on Monday. “I wished that in 1996, when we were starting up [my] old company, and I wish it now.”

Will there be bumps early on? Sure. But there’s no time to worry about that.

“It’s go time,” said Smith.

TVNewser: Talk about the planning and launch process for The News with Shepard Smith. Who did you work with to get this off the ground? Bringing a traditional newscast to a business news network is certainly not traditional.

Smith: No, and then the circumstances around it weren’t traditional. I started working with [CNBC chairman] Mark Hoffman, back before Covid. Of course, we didn’t seal anything until during Covid. Everything has happened over teams and Zoom. We’ve hired and gotten to know people and everything under Zoom. Everyone understands how difficult everything is under Covid, but we made the best of it that we could–we have to stay below 10% in our building capacity. Our team is in, and we’re distanced, and masked and trying to do this as we see rising cases and just trying to get each other established philosophies and what we want to be and what we don’t want to be and soldiering on.

Tell us about the physical studio. What will viewers see?

We’re holding off on debuting that new studio [which CNBC is building exclusively for the newscast] because we wanted to make sure that our content is right, and that new environment is still under construction. We don’t want to rush the studio and let it be the cause for editorial problems. So, we’re going to launch in a different studio, and we’re going to have to debut the other studio because it’s such a great environment to tell stories. It was built with Covid in mind. They started it when we were in Covid, and it’s been a two-month process around the clock.

The idea was to be able to bring reporters, and guests, and victims and whoever it is that we’re interviewing into the environment with us, much like we all do at home on Zoom teams. But we wanted to make it look and feel more real so that the walls that contain people and video and all the rest, they move to create an environment that is more natural, vibrant, and the newest technology. It’s really, really nice—it’s just not quite finished.

The newscast is debuting just in time for the election. How much of the newscast will focus on politics, and how much will focus on more general news and/or the markets? 

We’re going to do the news of the day and I feel like most of life right now is in six buckets: Politics and governance is one, especially now as we head up to the election, you can’t avoid that. Covid of course, is all-consuming. There’s also the information age and how it’s affecting all of us and what we get and how we get it. There’s social justice and all the ramifications of that: Black Lives Matter, and anti-racism. We’re going to cover all of those things. Income inequality really affects everything. If you have money right now you can get through Covid, and if you don’t it’s harder. And then climate, because the scientists tell us, “sure, we’re in a bad place right now but if we’re not careful and we don’t do right, there will come a time when climate will make this look like cake.”

So: Covid, politics, information age, social justice, income inequality and climate. Those are the buckets of news these days and we’re going to try and bring facts and experts, and leave the opinion and pundits to others.

Longtime CNBC newser Sandy Cannold is overseeing the newscast, but your new ep Sally Ramirez is a new arrival who comes from local. What influenced you (and the powers that be) to bring Ramirez to this national newscast?

Sally [Ramirez] is extraordinary. Her energy is contagious, and her history is stellar. She won in her last shop–KHOU [TV] in Houston—Best Breaking News Coverage, nationally, three years in a row. That does not happen by accident or happenstance.

She’s a great leader, she has a great grasp on the news of day, what matters, and when it matters. She’s good at looking ahead toward events that are coming, and planning coverage around that.

I think what impressed me most—obviously we met each other over Zoom—was her insistence that we must find the heroes amid the chaos, and I’ve long believed exactly that and preach that. She’s great at finding those people. We have to find good news, too. We can’t just wallow in all of this uncertainty. We have to we have to find the good things. They’re there, and we have to find them because we need to be inspired, and we need to have some fun. We can do all of that in one hour if we produce it well, and if we have good leadership, and we do.

What do you take away from your time at Fox News and what do you miss the most about being there?

I made lifelong friends there, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to write a first draft of history. Then, I decided to move on. That’s it. Now, it’s really about how do I take the lessons that I’ve learned in my last company, and over the years, including in local before that, and bring together a full plate newscast that’s going to serve our audience in a way where we don’t tell them how to think? We’re going to give them the information they need so they can think for themselves. We want to try to inspire people too, not us. We want to try to bring the people to the screen who inspire.

I’ve sort of used all that’s come before to try to put it into this, and I’m sure we won’t be perfect from day one, but eventually we’re going to have a full plate newscast, where at the end, I hope people say, “I learned something.” And, “that was interesting.” If we can do that, then I think we’ve succeeded.

How will The News With Shepard Smith be similar to, and different than, Shepard Smith Reporting?

There, I did a daytime news hour that was breaking news and analysis. At 7 p.m., it’s more “news of the day,” and some things that we think you might be interested in on the sidelines, and not really analysis.

I’ll work on Election Night, and we’ll have panels and we’ll do analysis, but that won’t be my newscast. In my newscast, we will have journalists and newsmakers and experts and more journalists, and that’s it. I don’t have any problem with pundits and opinion, but they’re just not welcome in this hour.

Give us the elevator pitch: Why should viewers tune into The News with Shepard Smith?

I think viewers are looking for different things. Some people are wanting to hear a mix of opinion and news and analysis, and those properties exist for them. I don’t have any problem with that. But if what you are looking for is just the news, not the boring news or the political news, just all of it; and you want to have information so that you can think for yourself, for planning for your family and to try to help sort things out; news with context, historical and otherwise; perspective that experts can bring, then I think this is going to be something worth people’s time.

I hope people give us a chance for more than one night and see what it is we’re offering. We’ve got an enormous opportunity with incredible journalists here that work on their own beats. Every reporter has his own specialty and they’re deeply immersed and they really come with volumes of information. That’s something I haven’t really been around that much before and I love it. Then on top of that, we’ve got NBC News. We’ve got NBC O&Os. We have Telemundo and Sky News around the world.

We just have a lot to bring to the table, and I hope people will come try it out.