Shepard Smith hasn’t greeted TV-news viewers since leaving Fox News Channel in October of last year. He may have a new chance to connect with them as the 2020 election draws near.
Smith continues to discuss possibilities with MSNBC and other media outlets, according to five people familiar with parts of the talks, which may also include some non-traditional venues. Smith held exploratory talks with CNN and ABC News, according to some of these people, but it’s not clear those negotiations have continued.
Smith could not be reached for comment through a representative. ABC News, CNN and MSNBC declined to make executives available for comment.
Many executives in the TV-news business are curious about Smith’s next step. He left Fox News abruptly last year after battling verbally with Tucker Carlson, one of the network’s primetime opinion hosts. Smith was one of Fox News’ earlier hires, and burnished a reputation for keeping a down-the-middle attitude toward news delivery, even as the network’s partisan leanings have become more pronounced in primetime. Smith also led breaking-news coverage at Fox News, and the network recently named veteran correspondent Bill Hemmer to take on many of his duties.
Smith’s non-compete agreement with Fox News Channel is believed to expire in June or July, which would make him available for work as anticipation sets in around the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
Anchors such as CNN’s Jake Tapper have thrived in the current era by trying to call balls and strikes in interviews with White House officials and in the midst of the news cycle swirling around President Donald Trump. Jeff Zucker, who oversees CNN as part of his duties as chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports operations, said in October that he would be open to talking to Smith about potential roles.
Smith has been clear that he does not crave a flashy role or outsize deal, according to some of the people familiar with discussions. He is not necessarily looking for a primetime perch on cable news, where he might be called upon to deliver opinion. Instead, he has focused on trying to explore the potential for a job that would allow him to reporting the news in a straightforward manner, these people said.
Meanwhile, Smith continues to win respect for his journalism. He was recently awarded a “Broadcast Legend” honor at The Golden Mike Awards, which are presented annually by the nonprofit Radio & Television News Association of Southern California. In November, he pledged to donate $500,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that works to protect press freedom overseas.