Fox News chief news anchor Shepard Smith is leaving the conservative cable network after 23 years there, he announced Friday.
Smith's appearance Friday on "Shepard Smith Reporting" was his last appearance on the network, according to Fox News. Smith is not leaving to take another job in journalism, he said during his final broadcast.
In addition to working as chief news anchor, Smith had been managing editor of the network's breaking news unit. He had worked at Fox News since its launch.
At a network known for its often full-throated support of President Donald Trump, Smith stood out for his criticisms of the president and for his fact-checking of claims by Trump and his supporters.
"Is he leaving? Oh, that's a shame," Trump quipped to reporters on the heels of the announcement of Smith's exit.
Smith's departure follows a report that he was warned last month by Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and network president Jay Wallace not to criticize the network's evening anchor Tucker Carlson again.
Smith had said on the air that it was "repugnant" that Carlson had not spoken up in defense of Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano after a Carlson guest, attorney Joseph di Genova, called Napolitano a "fool" for saying that Trump had broken the law. Di Genova is a legal advisor to Trump.
Fox News denied that Smith was warned about his criticism of Carlson.
"At no time did anyone - including anyone in management or a third party - speak to Shepard Smith regarding this matter," a Fox News spokesperson said. "Anything to the contrary is entirely false and wildly inaccurate."
Smith also has been criticized repeatedly by Trump — as recently as Thursday — after not lavishing praise on the president, as a number of other hosts on the network routinely do.
"Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter," Smith said in a prepared statement.
"After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many," Smith said.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor. I've worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I'm proud to have anchored their work each day — I will deeply miss them."
Smith said on air that "under our agreement" with Fox News "I won't be reporting elsewhere, at least not in the near future."
"Whoa!" said a clearly surprised Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto on the air after watching Smith's sign-off.
"Like you I'm a little stunned and a little heartbroken, I don't know what to say."
Wallace said in his own statement, "Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry."
"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.
On Thursday, Trump called Smith out by name on Twitter as he fumed over a Fox News poll that showed a slight majority of voters favor impeachment and removal of the president.
Trump has not hesitated to blast Smith in the past, even as he praised others on Fox News.
A Morning Consult poll last November found that Smith was the "least-loved Fox News personality" among Republicans.
Just 23% of Republicans had a favorable view of Smith in that poll, with 21% perceiving him unfavorably.
Carlson, in contrast, was the most popular Fox News host among Republicans, having a net favorability of 31%.
In second place in that poll was Laura Ingraham, another Trump-supporting anchor with an evening show.