Gawker reported today that the reason Fox News anchor Shepard Smith remains in the closet is because Fox News won’t let him come out. Not only that, when Smith tried to come out, Gawker said, he got demoted. Fox has denied the allegation.
According to Gawker, Smith tried to come out in 2013 during contract negotiations but was told not to:
Smith, one of Ailes’s first and most loyal disciples, acquiesced to his boss’s demand, and dropped the matter. But the discussion worried enough Fox executives to prompt Smith’s removal, in September 2013, from the channel’s coveted prime-time lineup. According to a Fox insider with direct knowledge of negotiations, Smith’s desire to come out was a large factor in the dramatic move.
“They tried to play it up as a big promotion,” the insider said. “But everyone knew that Shep was getting demoted. And the coming out thing was a significant part of that.”
…A few weeks before approaching Ailes about coming out, Smith surprised Fox staffers by bringing his boyfriend, a 26-year-old Fox producer named Gio Graziano, to a company picnic at Ailes’s compound in Garrison, New York. Held annually on Independence Day weekend, the picnic is a small gathering—only executives, on-air talent, and their frontline producers are invited—so Smith likely felt comfortable bringing along his steady partner.
According to Gawker, Fox’s Executive Vice President of Programming, Bill Shine, “flipped out” and convinced Ailes that a gay anchor on Fox would be ruinous for Smith’s ratings. Thus Smith was moved from 7 pm to 3 pm (where he had previously hosted a second show). Fox has continued to keep a tight lid on any discussion of Smith’s sexuality.
Since Gawker’s report, TVNewser got a response from their pals at Fox News:
“This story is 100% false and a complete fabrication,” write Ailes and Smith in a joint statement. “As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally.”
…Shine released his own statement of support for Smith, which reads in part: “We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction.”
Personally, I think it’s Smith’s private business if he comes out or not and, frankly, I don’t give a damn.But I do think it’s interesting - and newsworthy – to see how Fox News handles this 21st century issue with their 20th century audience. Also, I've always found it curious that Fox diminished Smith's on-air presence at the same time that it supposedly gave him a promotion.
As for whether or not other networks would hire Smith, let’s sum it up like this: His blunt honesty is the only thing he has going for him- Everything else you can dig up about him seems to point to that he was kinda working at Fox in the first place for a reason. When he got arrested in 2001, it brought out a lot of stories, which add up to that the person he is on the air wouldn’t be caught dead near the person is he off it. More than a few of these still around because he occassionally shows an example that revives it’s corresponding rep rumour on the air. Hell, most of Newshounds’ shep stories that aren’t praising him are about these instances.
NBC News might be willing to give him a fresh start if he leaves Fox, but they’re the only ones I see being that forgiving, assuming they can get past where they’re getting him from. Everyone else, those bridges were burned a long time ago, ratings or not.
Perception shows that it was a demotion.
Ah yes. Shine. An overpaid empty suit who we hope will be tossed out when Nixon trainee Ailes is no longer head of Fox “News.”
We doubt CNN would hire Smith, if he decides to leave this horrid network. His dust up with a reporter sealed his doom at CNN. MSNBC, on the other hand, could possibly hire him. He would draw a large audience to the network.
The dirt on Fox “News” and the LGBT community
NOTE TO SMITH
This network is not worth it. Move to another one where you are appreciated. Screw the senior management. All of them are empty suits.
I have to wonder whether Fox had some advance inside info that Piers Morgan was about to get the axe and quickly got Smith tied up with a lucrative contract and a fancy toy-filled studio to keep him happy about being demoted to 3:00 PM before he got wind of it.
Can you imagine how wonderful it would have been for Smith to have taken over that plum spot of 9 PM on CNN? CNN still hasn’t settled on a 9 PM replacement, and I wonder whether they know something we don’t and are treading water until Smith becomes contractually available again. One can only hope.
Joseph West, true dat.