Shepard Smith’s sudden departure from Fox News signaled that the drawbridge has effectively been raised, and all Trump nonbelievers belong on the other side of Rupert Murdoch's cable castle. No longer a place where any serious dissension—or Trump fact-checking—is allowed, Fox News has embraced its core mission of disseminating propaganda. The move shouldn't be surprising given the state of today's cultish right-wing media, where devotion to Trump now dictates so much of the content. It's a conservative media movement that has never been concerned with facts and accuracy, but today has descended into something even more irresponsible.
That's why it’s not surprising Smith had to go. The idea that the conservative media would in any meaningful way ever stand up to Trump always struck me as pure fantasy. That's because most of the conservative press is in the same business as Trump: waging culture wars and hoisting up the banner of white nationalist victimhood.
Smith, of course, hadn't fit into Fox News' propaganda blueprint for a very long time, which meant he constantly created a buzz when he did what virtually nobody else at Fox News would do since Trump’s inauguration, which is to point out, subtly, that the president of the United States lies all the time about everything. Under Trump, Fox News voices are allowed to occasionally criticize White House policy, but nobody is allowed to announce the emperor has no clothes, and Smith often tiptoed right up to that line.
Meanwhile, Trump’s presidency continues to highlight just how shallow the ethics and guidelines are within the conservative media, as players scramble to make sure they remain on his good side. “Glenn Beck, the radio host who once called Mr. Trump ‘an immoral man who is absent decency or dignity,’ now says that his defeat in 2020 would mark ‘the end of the country as we know it,’” The New York Times noted last week in an article looking at how so many Never Trump conservative journalists (He's a “racist”! He's a “fascist”!) have morphed into Trump's most loyal defenders. And no, none of the conservative commentators in the piece could offer up a coherent reason for their radical conversion regarding Trump. (Hint: Follow the money and follow the clicks.)
Those who did not convert often found themselves with a vanishing audience, which is one reason The Weekly Standard was forced to shut down. One of its editors, Stephen Hayes, last week launched a new conservative media voice, The Dispatch, in hopes of finding an anti-Trump conservative following. (Good luck.)
Meanwhile, when it comes to Smith's very sudden departure from Fox News, nothing adds up.