By James Hibberd
October 11, 2019 at 04:12 PM EDT

A longtime and well-regarded Fox News anchor is stepping down.

Shepard “Shep” Smith is exiting the cable news network, EW has confirmed.

Smith was the network’s chief news anchor and breaking news managing editor of Shepard Smith Reporting. 

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Friday’s episode was Smith’s final show, and he’ll be replaced by a rotating series of anchors in the 3 p.m ET slot until a permanent replacement is selected and announced.

“Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave FOX News and begin a new chapter,” Smith said. “After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor. I’ve worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I’m proud to have anchored their work each day — I will deeply miss them.”

Added Fox News Media president Jay Wallace: “Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry. His integrity and outstanding reporting from the field helped put Fox News on the map and there is simply no better breaking news anchor who has the ability to transport a viewer to a place of conflict, tragedy, despair or elation through his masterful delivery. We are proud of the signature reporting and anchoring style he honed at Fox News, along with everything he accomplished here during his monumental 23-year tenure. While this day is especially difficult as his former producer, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network.”

Smith was often praised among the oft-conservative Fox News talent lineup for taking a more even-handed approach to divisive issues and not shying away from correcting President Trump or other Republicans. Trump has in turn attacked Smith, once tweeting, “Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith.”

Smith’s colleagues were apparently surprised by the news, with Neil Cavuto saying on air, “Whoa. I’m Neil Cavuto and, like you, I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken.”

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