He gave no reason for his departure but it is no stretch to surmise he left because Fox News (whose chief Rupert Murdoch was visited by Attorney General William P. Barr the day before Smith’s departure) precisely because, at Fox News, facts do not win the day and truth matters not in the least. (Acrimony between Smith and the prime-time Trump mouthpieces has become public in recent weeks.)
Whether it is carrying debunked stories about the whistleblower or conjuring up hatred and fear toward migrants (an invasion!), Fox News’s mission has been to reflect and amplify Trump’s message, which, given the source, is a toxic brew of racism, resentment and flat-out lies. Fox News is a font of misinformation on everything from illegal immigration to the Mueller investigation to the whistleblower complaint. Through it all, Smith continued to report on facts and bat down false stories, many which his own network propagated. Smith refused to bend to the prevailing winds and declined to sully his reputation. So he resigned. See? It can be done. We all have a choice as to how we conduct ourselves in the Trump era.
Interestingly, this past week, another man of integrity, David French, left the National Review, which has too often fallen prey to the same Trump excuse-mongering and anti-immigrant hysteria that pollutes other right-wing outlets. French, a rock-ribbed conservative and evangelical Christian, has been a consistent and harsh critic of Trump and of the intellectual and spiritual debasement of his party and the evangelical movement. He will be joining a new center-right outlet, The Dispatch, headed by Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, two other conservative voices who refuse to parrot Trump propaganda.
Those who depart intellectually corrupt outlets shatter the excuse others cling to — namely that Republicans simply have to capitulate to Trump and Trumpism. They’ll lose jobs, prestige, access, power and money unless they go along with the Trump cult. Balderdash. Smith and French showed that worse than those losses would be the loss of one’s integrity. They have decided that truth does matter, and that facts will win the day if brave souls refuse to give in to the increasingly illogical, destructive and unpatriotic rhetoric that now infuses the Republican Party.
In contrast to Smith and French, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) refused this past week to answer the most basic question about democracy: Is it acceptable to invite foreign government to muck around in our elections? They are profiles in cowardice who deserve our contempt. (Are they really so afraid that truth-telling cost would cost them their jobs, an assumption that implicitly insults their constituents, and would render them permanently unemployable?)
Sooner or later (before 2020 we hope), Trump will be gone, the entire Trump political enterprise will be revealed to be a scam (just as Trump University was). Those who went along with the destruction of our democracy and of human decency will tell us they were quietly against Trump all along. Nonsense. Those who accommodated the president chose to act as Trump apologists, helping to bastardize journalism and inflict harm on our democracy. History will reward Smith, French and others who refused to knuckle under during the Trump years.
For what they have done and will continue to do, we can say well done, Mr. Smith and Mr. French.