Former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith made his first public appearance since abruptly leaving the network on Thursday night, during which he made a passionate speech urging for the protection of the media – but without any direct reference to President Trump.
“Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” Smith told the audience at the Committee to Protect Journalists at a gala in New York City, for which he was master of ceremonies.
The media veteran went on to donate $500,000 to the nonprofit group that advances press freedoms around the world. Journalists attending the event snapped photos, however, Smith declined interviews.
“Our belief a decade ago that the online revolution would liberate us now seems a bit premature, doesn’t it?” Smith continued, according to The New York Times. “Autocrats have learned how to use those same online tools to shore up their power. They flood the world of information with garbage and lies, masquerading as news. There’s a phrase for that.”
In October, the veteran anchor left Fox News unexpectedly after 23 years. His departure came at a time when the schism between the news and opinion sections within the network was particularly noticeable.
He and opinion host Tucker Carlson had recently used their respective programs to criticize remarks made on the other’s. Carlson’s show, like much of Fox News’ opinion programming, relied on guests who defended President Trump, himself a frequent critic of the press — and Smith.
Smith decried the misinformation spreading on the internet and its usefulness to autocrats.
CNN President Jeff Zucker praised Smith in October, saying he’d be open to hiring him at some point in the future.
While discussing the network’s relationship with the White House with chief media correspondent Brian Stelter at the Citizen by CNN event, Zucker said, “I think Shep’s a great journalist. When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented and I would be very open to talking to him.”
Smith isn’t yet eligible to work for another company under the terms of his contract. It’s unclear how soon Smith would be able to entertain offers from competitors to return to TV news.