Reporter Gabriel Sherman offered insight into Shepard Smith’s resignation and how it plays into the larger issue of Donald Trump’s impeachment.
MSNBC Host Ari Melber suggested at the beginning of the discussion that Trump’s attacks on Fox (and maybe even William Barr’s recent meeting with Rupert Murdoch) are based on the “simple premise” that “to hold the Republican Senate, you don’t just persuade Republican senators, you try to hold on to their constituents, aka Fox’s audience.”
SHERMAN: Fox News really is the firewall. So if Fox News’ coverage changes, which we don’t really see signs that it is. I mean, Shep’s departure clearly is a victory for Donald Trump. But the degree to which, you know, other journalists at Fox actually cover what is happening with the Ukraine scandal, you know that will erode Donald Trump’s base. Donald Trump cannot afford to lose Fox News, as you mentioned at the top of the segment. He can maybe lose some Republican senators but the key constituency that he has to hold is the Fox News audience. And so that is why we saw him jump on this news and celebrate Shepard Smith’s departure.
But Sherman had some other information about Smith’s resignation, namely that this was in the works for a while and that the Tucker Carlson feud was the straw that broke the camel’s back:
SHERMAN: This was a decision that was in motion several weeks ago. Shepard Smith had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the blanket pro-Trump tenor of the network. The Tucker Carlson feud of course being the final straw. And he hired a high-profile attorney to negotiate an exit out of his contract. And Fox News management decided rather than doing a messy public fight, to let him out of the deal.
So this is clearly a very vivid example of the civil war that has been taking place inside Fox News about how they cover Trump. I mean, the Mueller report was one thing, but as I reported in Vanity Fair, impeachment is, you know, the existential threat to a presidency.
This was something that was handled, in my understanding, at the very highest levels. Shep kept his cards very close. No one inside the network that I spoke to knew that this was coming. So when he announced it on air, it was actually a piece of news that he himself was breaking.
Of course, this does not mean that Smith's resignation had no relationship to Murdoch's secret meeting with Barr, especially if keeping the Trump/Fox constituency is part of the legal strategy.
Meanwhile, watch Sherman's comments below, from MSNBC’s October 11, 2019 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.