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Fox News recently moved anchor Shepard Smith to a new timeslot, which now has been revealed as punishment for wanting to finally acknowledge his sexuality on air, at least according to a Gawker report published on Wednesday. Fox News quickly denied the report, calling it a “complete fabrication.”
On Wednesday, Gawker ran a story called “How Fox News Shoved Shepard Smith Back Into The Closet.” Based on anonymous sources, the report goes over how Smith approached Fox News president Roger Ailes in the summer of 2013, asking for the OK to come out on air. However, Ailes wouldn’t allow him to, saying that his conservative audience wouldn't be ready for an openly gay anchor.
This allegedly came up while Smith was in talks for a contract extension. Smith agreed not to come out, but he was moved out of primetime on the network.
However, according to Gawker’s sources, this meeting with ailes may not have been the only reason for his supposed “demotion.” Just weeks before at a July 4 picnic at Ailes’ compound in New York, Smith brought his boyfriend to the event. This apparently shocked Executive Vice President of Programming Bill Shine, who “flipped out.” Shine then held a meeting at the offices in New York City, believing that something had to be done with Smith. Later, Smith wound up being moved to 3 p.m. to host Shepard Smith Reporting.
Fox News later denied this account to TVNewser. “This story is 100% false and a complete fabrication,” Ailes and Smith said in the 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 also released a statement calling the Gawker story false. Fox News sources for Politico said that Shine wasn’t even in New York for this July 4 picnic. A spokesman for the network also added, “Bill Shine wasn't even at the Ailes July 4th party -- he was in Charleston, South Carolina on vacation with his family.”
Smith actually agreed to a contract extension in June 2013. Shine oversees the opinion/commentary shows that air during primetime, which does not cover Smith’s program. Senior vice president Jay Wallace manages Smith’s show.
Here is the statement from Shine:
“Over the past 18 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with Shepard Smith throughout his incredible rise from a field reporter to chief news anchor and his recent promotion to managing editor. Throughout his entire tenure here, Roger Ailes and I have fully supported him in both a professional and personal capacity. 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. We renewed his contract in June 2013 based on this full support as well as his exemplary journalism. He’s the gold standard of this profession and we’re extremely proud to call him the face of our news division.”