News 6 alumnus Shepard Smith quits Fox News

'Journalism and journalists will thrive,' Smith says at end of last newscast

In this Jan. 30, 2017, file photo, Fox News Channel chief news anchor Shepard Smith appears on the set of "Shepard Smith Reporting" in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Former News 6 reporter Shepard Smith abruptly quit Fox News on Friday after working at the network since it started in 1996.

Smith said at the end of his daily newscast Friday that he had asked the network to let him out of his contract and it had agreed.

Even in the current polarized environment, Smith said "It's my hope that the facts will win the day, that the facts will always matter and journalism and journalists will thrive."

Neil Cavuto, who anchors the broadcast following Smith's, looked shocked after the announcement.

"Whoa," Cavuto said. "Like you, I'm a little stunned."

Prior to his rise at Fox News, Smith got his start in Florida, first in Panama City, then in Fort Myers and later with News 6, then under the call letters WCPX.

"I don't think they had hired a new reporter in years," Smith told MediaBistro during an interview in 2012, later saying, "I was proud to have worked there."

In that interview, Smith also talked about his "big break" when he covered the demolition of the former Orlando City Hall for the movie "Lethal Weapon 3."

Smith's departure also comes one day after Attorney General William Barr met privately with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox News. President Donald Trump has been increasingly critical of personalities on Fox News whom he views as disloyal.

On his afternoon newscast, Smith had frequently given tough reports debunking statements made by Trump and his supporters - even the Fox News opinion hosts who rule the network's prime-time lineup.

Two weeks ago, Smith clashed with Tucker Carlson when an analyst on Smith's program, Andrew Napolitano, said that it was a crime for Trump to solicit aid for his campaign from a foreign government, in this case Ukraine. Later that night, Carlson asked his own analyst, Joseph diGenova, to comment and he called Napolitano a fool.

The next day, Smith said that "attacking our colleague who is here to offer legal assessments, on our air, in our work home, is repugnant."