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Fox news chiefs Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace addressed the sudden departure of longtime anchor Shepard Smith on Friday. In a memo to staff obtained by Variety, Scott, CEO of the cable-news channel, and Wallace, its president and executive editor, praised Smith, writing, “While this day is especially challenging for both of us who have worked alongside him for 23 years, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network.”

Smith, who became one Fox News’ original employees in 1996, issued a statement Friday announcing his exit. A long-time presence anchoring afternoon programming for Fox News, he told his audience Friday, “I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future,” adding that, as time passes, “We’ll see what comes along.”

Smith was long recognized for maintaining an impartial approach to his reporting and anchor duties at Fox News, even as the cable channel’s political leanings skewed firmly to the right. But Smith has come under increasing fire from President Donald Trump, who enjoys strong support at Fox News, particularly among the network’s highly rated primetime opinion-show hosts — with whom Smith sometimes clashed.

In their note to staff, Scott and Wallace called Smith “one of the premier newscasters of his generation” and added that his body of work ranked “among the finest journalism in the industry.”

Read the full memo from Scott and Wallace below:

Dear colleagues,

Today FOX News and Shepard Smith jointly announced that he will be stepping down from his role as Chief News Anchor and Managing Editor of the network’s breaking news unit and Anchor of Shepard Smith Reporting.

As Shep said in the press release that was issued moments ago (http://press.foxnews.com/2019/10/fox-news-channels-shepard-smith-to-step-down-as-chief-news-anchor-and-managing-editor-of-breaking-news-unit/), he recently asked us to step down and begin a new chapter. We know this was an extremely difficult decision for him and he made it with much deliberation, care and consideration. While this day is especially challenging for both of us who have worked alongside him for 23 years, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network.

We also know this day is just as difficult for those of you who had the fortune of working closely with Shep for so many years. Neil Cavuto said it best this week — [Shep] “has a big heart and is one of the kindest and most decent people in any profession.”

Shep is also 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. 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 blending of words and experience. We are incredibly proud of the signature reporting and anchoring style he honed here, along with everything he accomplished during his monumental 23-year tenure.

We will keep everyone informed once a new dayside news program is announced — until then, we are planning to have a series of rotating news anchors host the 3PM time slot which will now be entitled Fox News Reporting.

Thank you,

Suzanne & Jay