Fox News fight: Shepard Smith, Sean Hannity trade insults

Sean-Hannity-Shepard-Smith
Fox News host Sean Hannity (left) called Shepard Smith “clueless” after Smith said opinion hosts at the network existed “strictly to be entertaining.”

“Clueless.”

That’s how Fox News host Sean Hannity described his colleague, Shepard Smith, a day after the anchor of Shepard Smith Reporting called out his network’s opinion programing as “there strictly to be entertaining” and saying, “I wouldn’t work there.”

“While Shep is a friend with political views I do not share, and great at breaking news, he is clueless about what we do every day,” Hannity decried on Twitter Friday afternoon. “Hannity breaks news daily.”

Smith’s comments about the opinion side of Fox News come from a lengthy profile written by Daniel D’Addario for Time, published to coincide with a new multi-year contract that will keep the 54-year-old anchor at the network he helped launch over 20 years ago.

“Our team’s commitment to delivering facts to our loyal viewers in context and with perspective, without fear or favor, is unwavering,” The 54-year-old anchor said in a statement.

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Over the past few years, Smith has come to define the divide that has grown at the network in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president. On one side, you have Fox News opinion hosts and program, like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends, which have quickly lined up to offer an almost unwavering defense of President Trump. On the other, you have the network’s news division, which includes Smith and anchors like Bret Baier, who attempt to report the news as fair and balanced as the network’s former slogan promised.

Smith, who has found himself at times directly debunking stories and segments offered by his colleagues on the opinion side, said he doesn’t let the difference between them get in the way of his reporting.

“We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules,” Smith told D’Addario. “They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. If it’s their opinion.”

“I get it, that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that,” Smith continued. “I don’t work there. I wouldn’t work there.”

The differences have been noticeable. Earlier this week, Smith rebuked claims made by Trump that there is “not much political support” behind the idea of raising the age requirement on firearm purchases from 18 to 21, and suggested the president had been co-opted by the NRA.

“That’s not true. It’s just not factually accurate,” Smith said. “There is broad-based support for raising the gun age limit. The president said to the kids at Parkland, ‘I’ll go strong on this, I’ll work on this age thing.’ He came up to the general public and said to the Congress, ‘The NRA has a lot of pressure on you, but not on me so much.’ And then he met with the NRA.”

At times, the divide between Smith and the network’s opinion hosts has bubbled over into public squabbles. Last July, Smith reported on a June 2016 campaign meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a a Kremlin-linked lawyer set up with the promise of Russian-backed dirt on Hillary Clinton. Frustrated over the administration’s apparent inability to come clean about the facts of the meeting, Smith called the level of deception coming out of the White House “mind-boggling.”

“If there’s nothing there, and that’s what they tell us, why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie?” an angry Smith asked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who also works for the news side of the network. “There are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re gonna realize we’re not, and look around and go, ‘Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?’ ”

That segment caused Hannity to unload on Smith on his syndicated radio show (which airs locally on 2010 WPHT), labeling the longtime Fox News anchor “anti-Trump.”

Certainly there are a number of Fox News viewers who would like to see Smith and his unbiased reporting of the news land elsewhere. The same goes for executives like MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who told the Hollywood Reporter in 2012 that if he could steal one broadcaster from a television rival, he would poach Smith.

“I just like his way,” Griffin said. “I like everything about him.”

Thanks to his new contract, Smith isn’t going anywhere, which means the news anchor will have plenty of opportunities to continue telling Fox News viewers what they don’t want to hear.

“Are you looking for news and information so that you can make decisions about your life and your family? Or are you looking for your worldview to be confirmed?” Smith said. “For that second kind of viewer, when the facts fly in the face of your worldview, that can be unsettling. Sometimes, then, they don’t like me. And there are other times when the facts work beautifully with their worldview. Then, they’re very happy.”