Fox News is denying a report that the network demoted anchor Shepard Smith after he asked chief Roger Ailes about publicly coming out, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.
The original report, published in Gawker, said that Smith was eager to acknowledge his sexuality, but that Ailes reportedly told him the network’s conservative audience wouldn’t accept a gay news anchor. Smith then reportedly dropped the issue, but according to the original story his request worried Fox News executives and prompted them to drop him from the prime-time schedule.
Fox News “strenuously denounced” the Gawker article on Wednesday, the Times notes.
Ailes and Smith, in a joint statement, said the story was “100% false and a complete fabrication.”
“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," the statement said.
Fox News Executive Vice President of Programming Bill Shine, whom Gawker reported “flipped out” when Smith brought his boyfriend to a company picnic and allegedly argued against his coming out, said in a statement that the network has “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.”