Fox News veteran Shepard Smith quits, says hopes 'facts will win the day'

LOS ANGELES, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Shepard Smith, the chief news anchor of Fox News and a sometime critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, announced on Friday he was quitting the network after 23 years.

In an unexpected on-air statement at the end of his daily “Shepard Smith Reporting” show, Smith said he had asked to leave.

His farewell message ended with the hope that “the truth will always matter.”

“Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged. Under our agreement I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future,” Smith said.

“Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will survive,” Smith said.

Smith, who is also managing editor of the network’s breaking news unit, has been one of the few senior journalists on conservative-leaning Fox News to criticize Trump.

In March, he took issue with Trump’s criticism of the late Republican Senator John McCain, and in August Smith spoke out about the “unmistakable rise of white nationalism and white racism in America” which Democrats say Trump has not done enough to discourage.

Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the U.S. media as “the enemy of the people,” has lashed out publicly against Shepard.

“Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted in August.

Smith has been with Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, since it was launched in 1996.

Fox News president Jay Wallace in a statement called him “one of the premier newscasters of his generation.”

“While this day is especially difficult as his former producer, we respect his decision and are deeply grateful for his immense contributions to the entire network,” Wallace said. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)