Shepard Smith shocked the news world on Friday when he announced his immediate departure from Fox News. Smith had worked at the news network since its inception in 1996 and was paid handsomely — a reported $15 million per year.
Supporters of President Donald Trump largely celebrated Smith's departure as they believed Smith was "anti-Trump" and "left-wing."
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However, Fox News staffers who work in the network's news division have since revealed that Smith's departure could have drastic collateral repercussions because they've lost an ally at a company whose opinion hosts often overshadow its news division.
"It feels like death in the news division," a senior Fox employee told CNN about Smith's departure, saying staffers at the network were "shocked" and that some were crying. "At least we had him."
"Who can fill that role?" another Fox employee asked.
A third Fox employee, who said "staffers were openly weeping" after the announcement, noted that some staffers "were here and have stayed here solely for" Smith.
"Don't be surprised if there's an exodus," the person told CNN, adding, "Fox hasn't just lost Shep today."
Smith's announcement, which came in the middle of his contract cycle, suggests "a severe fissure between Smith and Fox management," CNN reported. Indeed, there appeared to be a rift between Smith, who led the network's news division, and the network's opinion hosts.
President Donald Trump also mocked Smith on Friday, telling reporters, "He had terrible ratings. If he's leaving, I assume he's leaving because he had bad ratings."
However, Fox News dismissed speculation that internal tensions forced Smith out.
"The decision to leave was Shep's and his alone — he will be taking an extended period of time off to be with his family," network spokesman Chris Giglio said. "Following that — who knows — he is not retiring."
While it is not yet clear what Smith's next move will be, what is clear is that he will not head to a competitor network. Smith said Friday he agreed to a "non-compete" clause in his contract. "Under our agreement, I won't be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near feature," Smith said.