Longtime anchor Shepard Smith announces exit from FOX News Channel

Longtime FOX News anchor Shepard Smith announced on Friday he is leaving the network.

In a statement, Smith said he originally asked the company to allow him to leave in order to “begin a new chapter.”

"After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor. I’ve worked with the most talented, dedicated and focused professionals I know and I’m proud to have anchored their work each day — I will deeply miss them,” said Smith.

Smith is stepping down as his role as Chief News Anchor and Managing Editor for the network’s breaking news division as well as leaving the chair empty for his spot on “Shepard Smith Reporting,” which was his final show when he addressed his decision to leave.

FOX News president Jay Wallace praised the exiting anchor, calling him “one of the premier newscasters of his generation.”

“His extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry,” Wallace continued. “His integrity and outstanding reporting from the field helped put FOX News on the map and there is simply no better breaking news anchor who has the ability to transport a viewer to a place of conflict, tragedy, despair or elation through his masterful delivery."

Smith joined FOX News Channel as one of its original hires in 1996 and was known for covering almost all major stories as a correspondent as well as an an anchor.

According to the statement, Smith’s spot will be taken over by a handful of rotating anchors who will host the 3 p.m. ET time slot until an updated news program is announced.

FILE - Shepard Smith photographed during a recording of 'Shepard Smith Reporting.'