Fox News anchor Shepard Smith debunked what his own network has called the Hillary Clinton uranium "scandal," infuriating Fox viewers, some of whom suggested that he ought go work for CNN or MSNBC.
Smith's critique, which called President Donald Trump's accusations against Clinton "inaccurate," was triggered by renewed calls from Republicans on Capitol Hill for a special counsel to investigate Clinton.
Fox News, along with Trump and his allies, have been suggesting for months a link between donations to the Clinton Foundation and the approval of a deal by the State Department and the Obama administration allowing a Russian company to purchase a Canada-based mining group with operations in the United States.
Trump called it "Watergate, modern-age." Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, speaking on Fox News last month, said it was "equivalent to" the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spying case of the 1950s, in which the couple was charged with providing U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, noting that "those people got the chair."
Various fact-checkers, including The Washington Post's, have already dismantled the underpinnings of these accusations. No one expected a similar debunking from Fox.
But Smith, in his broadcast, made many of the same points as the fact-checkers. "Now, here's the accusation," he said.
"Nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling more than $140 million. In exchange, Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton approved the sale to the Russians, a quid-pro-quo. The accusation first made by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of the website Breitbart in his 2015 book Clinton Cash. The next year, candidate Donald Trump cited the accusation as an example of Clinton corruption."
He then played a video of Trump's version of the "scandal" in which he claimed:
"Hillary Clinton's State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America's uranium holdings to Russia. Well, nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation."
Smith called the statement "inaccurate in a number of ways," noting that "the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction." Rather, it must be approved by an interagency committee of the government consisting of nine department heads, including the Secretary of State.
Most of the Clinton Foundation donations in question, he pointed out, came from Frank Giustra, the founder of the uranium company in Canada. But Giustra, Smith noted, "says he sold his stake in the company back in 2007," three years before the uranium/Russia deal and "a year and a half before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state." He added:
". . . The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia."
Smith has deviated from the Fox and Trump line before, to the point that his Fox colleague Sean Hannity accused him of being "anti-Trump."
Tuesday night, Twitter was brimming with outrage from people who appeared to share Hannity's view.
"Get Shepard Smith off of Fox. He's arrogant and doing his own spin. Nobody knows how deep the left's conspiracy goes and Shepherd Smith has ZERO inside info because nobody trusts him. OUT!" one Tweet read. Another Tweet said of Smith: "He is a smartass that needs to be on CNN."
The sense of betrayal among some was similar to sentiments expressed Wednesday about Fox's Sean Hannity after he stopped defending Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and gave him 24 hours to explain what Hannity called "inconsistencies" in his responses to accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.