Shepard Smith, the chief news anchor of Fox News whose reporting often drew the ire of President Trump, said on Friday that he was leaving the cable news network after 23 years, an abrupt move that left some of his co-workers openly stunned.
“Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News,” Mr. Smith told viewers at the close of his regular broadcast. “After requesting that I stay, they obliged.”
A fixture of Fox News, Mr. Smith joined the network as a correspondent at its start in 1996 and became one of its most visible journalists. He is leaving in the middle of his current contract, a rarity in the cutthroat television business, and he told viewers on Friday that under his exit agreement, “I won’t be reporting elsewhere at least in the near future.”
Since Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Smith has stood out at Fox News for his tough coverage of the White House — a stark contrast from the Trump cheerleading often displayed by the network’s prime-time and morning-show commentators.
Mr. Smith’s reporting on the White House has frustrated Mr. Trump, who has taunted the anchor on Twitter. On Thursday, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Smith by name, along the former Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, in a Twitter post arguing that Fox News was “much different than it used to be in the good old days.”
In March, the president lobbed another insult at Mr. Smith, calling him the network’s “lowest rated anchor” and saying that, along with a pair of Fox News weekend anchors, he should be working at CNN, a network he has often accused of having a liberal bias.
The tension between Mr. Smith and some of his Fox News colleagues burst into open view last month as the impeachment inquiry was getting started. Mr. Smith denounced a guest on Tucker Carlson’s program for making “repugnant” comments about a Fox News legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano. Mr. Carlson fired back at Mr. Smith with a not-so-subtle suggestion of bias, saying, “Unlike maybe some dayside hosts, I’m not very partisan.”
Several of his Fox News colleagues appeared shocked by Mr. Smith’s decision to depart. “I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken,” the anchor Neil Cavuto, who follows Mr. Smith on weekdays, told viewers moments after Mr. Smith had concluded his 3 p.m. broadcast. It appeared that Mr. Cavuto had no advance warning of Mr. Smith’s decision.
John Roberts, Fox News’s chief White House correspondent, called the move “completely shocking” and compared learning of the news to being “hit by a subway train.”
Mr. Smith has, at times, pointed out Mr. Trump’s false statements in the opening remarks of his program.
In early September, he criticized the president’s warning that Alabama was in danger from Hurricane Dorian, saying, “Some things in Trump-landia are inexplicable. This week’s edition, the president’s ongoing claim that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian. It wasn’t. Maybe he got some bad info from somebody, maybe he made a mistake, maybe he was confused — we don’t know. But he was wrong. And since, for days and days, he’s been insisting, with fake visual aids in hand, that he was right.”