Earlier this afternoon we published a quick rundown of a story in Gawker today which claims that Shepard Smith was demoted at Fox News because he pushed to come out of the closet. Gawker's J.K. Trotter has been trying for months now to out Shep, with today's piece making the fourth time he's written about Shep's sexual orientation in just the past seven months. He's mostly been skewered in the media for his persistence in chasing a story that isn't really a story, but even I was willing to admit that if Shep's sexual orientation was having a direct impact on his standing at his place of work, then it would be, in fact, newsworthy.
The problem, of course, is that today's report was coming from Trotter, who has exhibited a near-stalker-like obsession with Shep to the point where, last month, he had to be thrown out of a National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association gala he had attended to tail and confront Shep publicly about his sexuality.
Well, Fox News is going full-court-press on the response to Trotter's story, which is to say they're facing it head-on and denying it in the strongest possible terms. "This story is 100% false and a complete fabrication," say Roger Ailes and Shep himself in a joint statement. "As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally." Bill Shine, meanwhile, whom Trotter's alleged source claims is "a major, major homophobe," also issued a separate statement:
“Over the past 18 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with Shepard Smith throughout his incredible rise from a field reporter to chief news anchor and his recent promotion to managing editor. Throughout his entire tenure here, Roger Ailes and I have fully supported him in both a professional and personal capacity. We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction. We renewed his contract in June 2013 based on this full support as well as his exemplary journalism. He’s the gold standard of this profession and we’re extremely proud to call him the face of our news division.”
What's worth mentioning here, as a matter of irrefutable fact, is that Bill Shine runs Fox News programming and has nothing to do with news production, which is the department Shep falls under and of which he's the managing editor. Michael Clemente and Jay Wallace run news and they're who Shep ostensibly answers to, although given his clout at the network he informed me a couple of years back that if he has something he wants to discuss, he takes it directly to Ailes.
On that note, I've made no secret of the fact that I've known Shep for years, going back to the early days of our careers in Miami and through our respective stints in Los Angeles in the mid-90s. Maybe it's because of this that I was contacted personally just a little while ago and informed of what Shep says are a few important facts that he claims Trotter got completely wrong in his story.
First of all, Trotter claims that Shine "flipped out" when he saw Shep with a man, Fox News producer Gio Graziano, at a July 4th, 2013, party. But Shep and other Fox News sources, including the network's spokesperson, say Shine was never even at that party -- that he was in Charleston, South Carolina with his family at the time. It's also common knowledge that Shep renegotiated his contract in June of 2013, so by that point a demotion would have very likely been out of the question, especially since Shep's new role had already been decided on; it was apparently the culmination of discussions between Ailes and Shep that had been going on since the spring of that year.
As for Shep's relationship with Graziano, the two have reportedly been to Ailes's home on more than one occasion, so according to Shep it's not as if there's a shocking secret there.
One Fox News source I spoke to called Trotter's ongoing campaign to publicly out Shep "disgusting," and "homophobic." Shep also shared with me the e-mail he sent to his staff this afternoon from Los Angeles. I can confirm it's his just because -- well, trust me, that's Shep.
Newsteam- Good morning from Los Angeles.
I came to fox news 18 years ago because they agreed to hire me. I've stayed with fox news because of my relationship with Roger Ailes. He's my boss, my friend and my steadfast supporter both professionally and personally.
Things you might read today are horseshit. As phony as 24-hour breaking news on The Plane Channel.
Big love. See yall Monday... Unless breaking news changes everything.