BALTIMORE – I can’t wait to read Shepard Smith’s book about his combat years at Fox News, which ended last week when he suddenly announced, live, on the air, to the visible shock of his fellow anchors, that he had just quit.
He’s got to write a book about this, doesn’t he? Not just about his decision to walk away in the middle of a reported $15 million a year gig, but about all the aggravation, all the intra-squad bickering, all the incoming flak from Donald Trump, all the public arguments over news-versus-propaganda practices at Fox that preceded his departure.
As everybody who pays even the slightest attention to politics and media coverage knows, Fox is the cable news network that lives and breathes in Donald Trump’s back pocket. If you don’t think so, just ask Trump himself.
“Thank God we have them on our side,” Trump told a roaring crowd in Lake Charles, La., on Friday, while naming at least a dozen Fox figures. “The Times, the Washington Post, they’re dishonest, horrible. I think they’re very bad for our country.”
Among the names conspicuously missing from Trump’s honor roll was Shepard Smith’s.
But this was just the latest round of public smooches Trump has sent Fox’s way over the past three years, while tossing verbal grenades at anyone considered out of political step. Some of Trump’s remarks have been so cuddly, they’ve left Fox’s own people embarrassed. In their hearts, they know they’re not supposed to be cheerleaders for any administration, Republican or Democrat. They’re supposed to be telling it to us straight.
And, when they mix in opinion with straight reporting, they’re at least supposed to base their opinions on facts. And that’s one of the problems facing America right now. We’re dealing with different sets of “facts,” which lead us to different perceptions of reality.
Yes, there’s MSNBC and CNN. And, yes, most of their opinionizing comes from the left, just as Fox’s comes from the right.
But it’s opinion based on facts. It’s not about some phony “war on Christmas” that Fox promoted for years. It’s not about Fox’s phony, endless Obama stories that he was a Marxist, a Muslim, a man born outside America. It’s not reporting based on Fox’s phony Seth Rich murder story, or the phony “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, or Sarah Palin’s phony “death panels,” or the phony reports debunking climate change, or the phony reports about attempts to establish Shariah law in America.
And let’s not forget Fox big shots cheer-leading the run-up to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the former Fox host Bill O’Reilly typifying its coverage when he warned viewers not to raise any questions or issue any protests.
“Americans,” O’Reilly declared, “and indeed our allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway, will be considered enemies of the state by me.”
Shepard Smith was a pebble attempting to hold back the tide of errors and irrationality and bombast at Fox. Lately, he was getting it from some of his on-air colleagues. Repeatedly, he was getting it from Trump.
Last Friday, after 23 years at Fox, he concluded his late-afternoon broadcast by signing off, announcing, “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.”
He takes with him the rare Fox voice of skepticism about Donald Trump.
“Why is it lie after lie after lie?” Smith asked during a 2017 newscast. Trump was just getting started – and so was Smith.
No doubt Trump will be happier now that Smith’s gone. His farewell announcement made no mention of the conflicts, the aggravations, the phony stories, that preceded his departure.
Maybe he’s saving of it for his book. He’s got to write one, doesn’t he?
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of several books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.