“We’re thrilled that Shep, who’s built a career on an honest fight to find and report the facts, will continue his pursuit of the truth at CNBC,” Hoffman said. “We aim to deliver a nightly program that, in some small way, looks for the signal in all the noise,.”
Smith never explicitly said why he walked out on Fox a few months after signing a contract extension, but left enough signals along the way. He had been at Fox since the network’s inception in 1996.
His show often bluntly debunked statements made by Trump and his supporters, including opinion hosts on his own network. Shortly before leaving, he had called it repugnant when Tucker Carlson brought on an analyst specifically to refute something said on Smith’s show.
“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 thrive,” he said when signing off Fox.
Between impeachment, the pandemic and racial unrest, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN have thrived this year, often the three most popular cable networks. CNBC has rejected the Nielsen company’s ratings, believing they underestimate the network’s business-oriented audience in daytime.
In prime time, the three news networks are more about opinion than news, with Fox the favorite of President Donald Trump’s supporters, MSNBC and CNN more popular with the president’s political opponents.
Smith, whose non-compete contract with Fox ended at the beginning of the month, was an attractive talent that drew interest throughout the industry. In CNBC he found a clean slate, a network not identified with a political viewpoint.
CNBC’s prime time lineup currently features reality-based programming like “Shark Tank,” “The Profit” and “Jay Leno’s Garage.”
There were published reports earlier this spring that NBC management was considering establishing a political talk lineup in prime time for CNBC, conservative but more moderate than Fox News.
Smith’s signing seems an indication that the opinionated talk lineup is less likely.