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The Sunday Conversation: Shepard Smith

The 'Fox Report' host dishes on his time in Rome for the papal conclave, what phones he takes to bed, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and more.

March 23, 2013|By Irene Lacher
  • "Fox Report" host Shepard Smith in his studio at Fox News in Manhattan, NY.
"Fox Report" host Shepard Smith in his studio at Fox News in Manhattan,… (Jennifer S. Altman, For…)

Shepard Smith, longtime host of the nightly "Fox Report," is Fox News Channel's No. 1 anchor. That's thanks in part to his mix of folksy accessibility and anchor-worthy gravitas, which have earned him a perch at Politico.com, where his news clips are regularly featured in a regular column, the Daily Shep.

So you were on smoke watch in Rome. How did Fox News cover the papal conclave and what was that scene like?

Well, I did it in '05, and it was different because it began in a mourning phase [for Pope John Paul II] because he was such a popular figure. [This time] we had people in St. Peter's Square and others in our [ad hoc] studio, which was a rooftop with a tent on top of it. So we sat out in the rain for 12 or 14 hours a day. But it really was fun. We all just stared at that smokestack, and we read up on all the men who were in contention for this, and [then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio] was eighth on our list.

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How do they make the smoke go from black to white?

They put chemicals in with it. In '05 they used a different formula and it really was gray, and nobody really knew what was going on. This time, they added chemicals to make it fully black, as we saw on Day 1 of the vote. But on Day 2, we had black in the morning and then in the afternoon it looked completely gray, and I'm like, "That's white, everybody." There's no gray in the Catholic Church apparently, like there is in the rest of society. It's black or white.

I saw your interview with Father Jonathan Morris ...

Longtime [Fox News] contributor, wonderful man.

Yeah, where you said that you thought that the Catholic Church was out of step with the modern world.

Did I say that? I think I might have been quoting others who have said that, but I feel ya.

I think you were not quoting other people when you talked about the status of women in the church.

Well, I should have. The fact is, women have more positions of authority within the church than they ever have, but women can't be cardinals. And we're talking about 2,000 years of scripture here, and there's that, but I think these are questions that are worth asking in 2013. In 2013, we all know women can do anything men can do. And why is it that women don't have as much of a voice in the church?

Did you say that you thought the media spent a ridiculous amount of money covering the conclave?

I was actually just commenting on the amount of money that we do spend, like organizations around the world, to come and watch a smokestack. That's not to say I don't think it was worth covering, I do. It affects 1.2 billion people, and I certainly thought it was worthy of our coverage. But we spent an inordinate amount of time on this, and there's a lot going on in the world.

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What news sources do you consume every day?

The New York Times, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and local newspapers all over the country, the Huffington Post, Foxnews.com and the Daily Beast and Talking Points memo and the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Miami Herald.... I'm on everything, all day, every day. If it were fattening I would be obese.

Actually, I read that you sleep with your Samsung Galaxy — in your bed? Not next to it?

Actually, it's not a Samsung Galaxy, it's a Nexus 6. The Blackberry and the iPhone are by the bed, and the Nexus 6 is in the bed. That's an embarrassing thing, and I wish I'd never admitted it. But the first thing, before coffee, before bathroom, I log on. These are bad habits that I need to break, but I need to know right when I wake up what is about to happen today.

Has that affected your personal life?

Well, it always has. You're beholden to the news cycle. There was a time when I just didn't make plans, but now I make them and break them.

You seem to be an anomaly at Fox News. You seem to disagree with your peers there on issues like gay rights, global warming and the public option for healthcare, and on the Web you seem to get more reader criticism from the right than the left. So why are you at Fox News?

I've always been at Fox News. They tell me my job is to find out what happened and tell people about it and to try to figure out what's truth and what's spin and report it. I try to stake my ground not on the left or the right but on the side of truth and facts. Then if you want to believe something else, then have at it. But it's not my job to delve into those opinionated things. Global warming is real.

So were you surprised when MSNBC's Rachel Maddow stated publicly that she's a big fan of yours?

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