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.