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Shep Smith’s long history of infuriating Fox News viewers

Longtime Fox News anchor Shepard Smith often diverges from the network's commentators while on air. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Shepard Smith did it again.

On his show Tuesday, the Fox News anchor spent five minutes systematically dismantling conservative conspiracy theories surrounding a uranium deal involving former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. While several other outlets, including The Washington Post Fact Checker, have already debunked claims about the deal, some Republicans are calling for another special investigation into the matter.

In particular, Smith took aim at President Trump's claim that the deal was a “scandal” that funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.

“That statement is inaccurate in a number of ways,” Smith said. “First, the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction. It could do neither. Here's how it does work ...”

However, the segment didn't sit well with much of Fox's conservative audience, many of whom called for Smith to be “FIRED for his biased reporting!!!!" and moved to CNN for his “lack of objectivity.” It was hardly the first time Smith has gone against the grain of the network — and, to the chagrin of many Fox viewers, it likely won't be the last.

The network is known for several outspoken conservative personalities, such as Sean Hannity and formerly Bill O'Reilly, who have been at the forefront of pushing certain right-leaning viewpoints — as well as exploring far-right conspiracy theories, such as the Barack Obama birther movement. It's no secret that Trump watches the network, which usually covers him favorably. Fox viewers, in turn, have a more favorable view of the president than the rest of the country.

On the other hand, Smith, 53, who has been at Fox for more than two decades, maintains that his job as a news anchor — not a commentator — is to observe and deliver the facts and let viewers decide for themselves. In an interview with the HuffPost last October, Smith denied that there was a “war going on” in the Fox studios between the news and opinion sides.

“Everybody’s got a job to do. [Sean] Hannity is trying to get conservatives elected. And he wants you to listen to him and believe what he believes,” Smith told the news site. “And I’m disseminating facts. It’s really apples and teaspoons. What we do is so different. He’s an entertaining guy who has an audience that he serves, and I deliver the news.”

Smith’s “persistent fact-mongering has made him persona non grata among some parts of the Fox News faithful,” The Post's Paul Farhi wrote in March, with Fox fans taking to social media to demand Smith’s firing.

Here are five other times Smith has upset Fox viewers with his delivery of the news or on-air fact-checking.

That time he wasn't afraid to use the 'L' word when describing Trump and the Russia investigation

In covering Trump's falsehoods — those from his campaign and his administration — many media outlets and fact-checkers have hesitated to use the word “lie,” since that implies an intent to deceive. In July, though, Smith let loose on his show when reporting that a Russian lawyer had met with more people than the White House had previously acknowledged.

“We've been told a variety of stories,” Fox News's Chris Wallace said to Smith. “And who knows if we've gotten to the end of the story?”

Smith's lengthy outburst as he responded to Wallace indicated his frustration at the administration:

“We’re still not clean on this, Chris. If there’s nothing there — and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothingburger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it — with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower? If all of that, why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you clean, come on clean, you know? My grandmother used to say when first we practice to — O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. The deception, Chris, is mind-boggling. And there are still people who are out there who believe we’re making it up. And one day they’re gonna realize we’re not and look around and go, 'Where are we, and why are we getting told all these lies?' ”

Wallace, rendered speechless, could only stare at the camera and shake his head after Smith finished.

That time he said Fox News had no knowledge of Trump’s wiretapping claims

In March, Trump claimed, without evidence, that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, which served as his campaign headquarters.

The series of tweets accused Obama of tampering with the “very sacred” election process.

Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, in a March 14 appearance on “Fox and Friends,” said he had spoken to three “intelligence sources” who claimed that Obama “went outside the chain of command” to spy on Trump, and used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters to ensure that there were “no American fingerprints on this.”

Enter Smith, who said on his show that Napolitano’s claims couldn’t be confirmed by Fox News or pretty much anyone else.

“Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” Smith said. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”

He opened that same newscast saying that Trump didn’t have to make unfounded claims at all: “Of course, the president could learn firsthand whether the building in which he [lived] was wiretapped. All he’d have to do is ask the intelligence services. They work for him.”

As The Post's Farhi reported, it was a rare bit of record-correcting for Fox but “no coincidence that the correcting came from Smith, whose off-message comments about Trump have made him an apostate to the conservative Fox News orthodoxy.”

That time he took on climate change deniers

In August 2015, Smith and Lisa Kennedy Montgomery were taking aim at a pseudoscientific study sponsored by Coca-Cola that said sugary drinks may not be a big cause of America’s obesity epidemic.

That’s when Smith said that cherry-picking studies was the same thing climate change deniers had been doing.

“Well, this reminds me of two things. The article in the New York Times this weekend pointed out: It reminds you of exactly what the tobacco industry did back in the day, and more recently it also reminds you of what the climate deniers, the climate change deniers are doing, as well.”

That time he told the New York Times that Obama is a U.S. citizen

Unlike commentators at the Fox network, Smith declined to get on the Obama birther bandwagon, instead declaring very publicly that the president of the United States was, in fact, a citizen.

The Obama birther argument animated some in conservative circles, including a man named Trump who would one day be president.

Trump began to raise questions about Obama’s qualifications for office in 2011, and he demanded to see the president’s long-form birth certificate and claimed he sent investigators to Hawaii.

For many, the debate ended when the president provided his birth certificate. Trump conceded that Obama was a natural-born citizen in 2016.

But Smith had questioned the birther movement for years.

In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, Smith said he was trying to counter “an ideological base” that believes the president is illegitimate and the country hijacked.

“An unreasonable comment to me is beginning with a statement that is contrary to fact and moving on from that premise: ‘Barack Obama is not a citizen; he is a Muslim looking to take down the nation,’ ” he told the Times. “When you begin with that premise, you are out of bounds.”

That time Smith called out 'Joe the Plumber' for saying Obama would mean 'the death of Israel'

In what feels like another lifetime, a younger Smith covering the 2008 presidential election had Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher — better known as Joe the Plumber — as a call-in guest on his show. Wurzelbacher said he agreed with others that a vote for Obama would be a vote for “the death of Israel.”

For several minutes, Smith pushed Joe the Plumber to provide concrete examples of Obama's record or associations that would back up his claim. Wurzelbacher couldn't.

“I honestly want people to go out and find their own reasons,” he said. “Go out and get informed. That's the biggest message I got for people.”

After he hung up, Smith added a fact-check.

“I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear: Barack Obama has said repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend to the United States no matter what happens once he becomes president of the United States. His words,” Smith said. He shook his head as he prepared to cut to a commercial break. “The rest of it — man. It just gets frightening sometimes.”

Read more:

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