Could Shep Smith's constant independence be getting him into trouble with his Fox News bosses?

The host is well-known for his propensity to say whatever he wants. He's called the killing of Osama bin Laden "illegal," come out forcefully for gay marriage, challenged his own network's coverage of controversial events, and generally done things his way. Sometimes it seems he's operating on a television planet of his own. And he's been rewarded with high ratings and a contract that takes him through at least 2013. He's called Fox News CEO Roger Ailes a "second father" to him. All, it would seem, is well.

But in an article about Fox News' relationships to gay rights, a former Fox News employee said that, despite the public comity, Smith's iconoclasm is starting to grate, especially his comments that Republicans were on the "wrong side of history" with gay marriage and that Chick-fil-A was promoting "intolerance.":

"Shep is on really thin ice," the former employee said. "If he wasn't so popular and highly rated (and highly paid) Roger would have yanked him off the air months ago."

The allegation would go against the more typical theory about Smith's presence at the network: that his independent streak is promoted because it helps deflect the persistent view of Fox News as a right-wing outlet.

Maybe it's just time for Ailes to have a chat with his host, as he told the Daily Beast he does when he feels he has to rein him in.

"Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don't run and we have a friendly talk," he said.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Salute To FOX News Channel's Brit Hume

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: FOX News host Shepard Smith poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

  • The Hollywood Reporter Celebrates "The 35 Most Powerful People In Media" - Arrivals

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel attends the Hollywood Reporter celebration of 'The 35 Most Powerful People in Media' at the Four Season Grill Room on April 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

  • Gary Sinise & The Lt Dan Band Benefit Concert For Army SPC Bryan Dilberain

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Megyn Kelly attends at the benefit concert for Army SPC Bryan Dilberain at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on April 27, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • The Hollywood Reporter Celebrates "The 35 Most Powerful People In Media" - Arrivals

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Bill O'Reilly attends the Hollywood Reporter celebration of 'The 35 Most Powerful People in Media' at the Four Season Grill Room on April 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

  • FOX News "Hannity With Sean Hannity" 15th Anniversary Show

    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 06: Sean Hannity during the FOX News 'Hannity with Sean Hannity' 15th anniversary show at Olympic Centennial Park on October 6, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)

  • PEOPLE/TIME Party On The Eve Of The White House Correspondents' Dinner

    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Greta Van Susteren of Fox News attends the PEOPLE/TIME Party on the eve of the White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for People)

  • PEOPLE/TIME Party On The Eve Of The White House Correspondents' Dinner

    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Chris Wallace of Fox News attends the PEOPLE/TIME Party on the eve of the White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for People)

  • An Evening With The Guardian

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 3: (L-R) Felix Salmon, Reuters Correspondent, Juan Williams, FOX News host, and Charlie Rose, host of Charlie Rose attend An Evening With The Guardian at Industria Studios on May 3, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Guardian)

  • Kelly Osbourne Visits "FOX & Friends"

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: (L-R) Donald Trump talks with 'FOX & Friends' hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade at FOX Studios on December 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

  • FOX News "Hannity With Sean Hannity" 15th Anniversary Show

    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 06: Sean Hannity and Bob Beckel during the FOX News 'Hannity with Sean Hannity' 15th anniversary show at Olympic Centennial Park on October 6, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)

  • FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto Interviews Former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive And Current Head Of CIT Group John Thain

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto (R) interviews former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive and current head of CIT Group John Thain at FOX Studios on October 27, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

  • News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch (L) is dr

    News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch (L) is driven away from the High Court in central London on April 26, 2012 after Rupert Murdoch's second and final day of giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. Rupert Murdoch admitted on April 26 there was a 'cover-up' over phone hacking at Britain's News of the World tabloid but tried to shift the blame away from himself and senior executives at his media empire. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Films Without Borders Inaugural Inaugural Launch

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Kimberly Guilfoyle attends the Films Without Borders launch at the St. Regis Hotel on April 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Cosmopolitan's 1st Annual Man Summit

    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23: Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer attends Cosmopolitan's 1st Annual Man Summit at the Hearst Tower on September 23, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

  • Beth Stern Visits "FOX & Friends"

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 09: Beth Ostrosky Stern along with FOX & Friends host Eric Bolling promotes the benefits of adopting a dog from a shelter whilst visiting the set of 'FOX & Friends' at FOX Studios on August 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • 2011 Stand Up For Heroes

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Geraldo Rivera attends 2011 Stand Up for Heroes at the Beacon Theatre on November 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

  • Kelly Osbourne Visits "FOX & Friends"

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: (L-R) Donald Trump talks with 'FOX & Friends' host Steve Doocy at FOX Studios on December 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

  • Love Is Not Abuse iPhone App Launch

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 10: Media personality Judge Jeanine Pirro attends the Love is Not Abuse iPhone app launch at the Lucky Brand Store on August 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • Carl Cameron

  • Greg Gutfield

  • Dana Perino

  • MONTBLANC Launches Collection Princesse Grace De Monaco At The Princess Grace Awards Gala

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: TV personality Alisyn Camerota attends MONTBLANC Launches Collection Princesse Grace De Monaco at the Princess Grace Awards Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 1, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for MONTBLANC)