Fox News viewers are calling for a TV anchor to be fired because he debunked an erroneous conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton.
Shepard Smith, who has been at Fox for more than two decades, discredited the theory which his own network has branded the Clinton uranium “scandal” in a five-minute segment.
Fox News, as well as President Donald Trump and his allies, have suggested for months that donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to the approval of a deal by the State Department and the Obama administration which allowed a Russian company to purchase a Canada-based mining group with operations in the US.
President Trump claimed it was “Watergate, modern-age” and former White House advisor Sebastian Gorka said it was equivalent to the Julis and Ethel Rosenberg spying case in the 1950’s which saw the couple convicted of committing espionage for the Soviet Union.
Proponents of the wholly false theory, which has been exposed as incorrect by various fact-checkers, claim that nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation which add up to more than $140 million. They say Ms Clinton in exchange approved the sale to the Russians – a “a quid pro quo”.
Smith, who has a history of angering Fox's viewers, debunked the conspiracy theories which surround a uranium deal involving the former Democrat presidential candidate. The reporter noted the Clinton State Department did not possess the power to either veto or approve such a transaction.
“The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not,” he said. “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 US to Russia.”
Smith also drew attention to the fact the Clinton Foundation donations in question came from Frank Giustra - the founder of the uranium company in Canada.
But Mr Giustra “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 Ms Clinton became secretary of state.
Critics argued Smith, who has been accused of being “anti-Trump” by his Fox News colleague Sean Hannity, should be sacked for his appearance and relocate to CNN or MSNBC.
“Did anyone watch Shep Smith just explain how Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with Uranium deal? What a joke Fox News!!! Send him to CNN,” one angry viewer tweeted.
Another said: “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!”
“No this is Shepherd Smith that is a lover of CNN especially Don Lemon and hates Trump. Also he’s wrong,” said another.
The conspiracy theory was first floated by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of far right publication Breitbart, in his 2015 book Clinton Cash. President Trump repeated the accusations throughout his election campaign.
These accusations, coupled with the problem of Ms Clinton using a private email server while she was secretary of state which was prohibited, sparked Republican crowds to chant “Lock her up” on the campaign trail.
Fox News, who President Trump has granted 19 interviews to since entering the White House, has long been criticised for its overly favourable coverage of the US president and for vilifying Ms Clinton.
The furore comes after several Fox News employees recently complained the channel was beginning to feel "like an extension of the Trump White House” in the wake of its recent political coverage.
A number of TV personalities and senior Fox employees were reportedly aghast by the channel’s stories on the indictment of two former Trump campaign officials. While the indictments dominated coverage on other major channels, they were downplayed by several Fox News hosts.
Instead of reporting on what the majority of news organisations deemed to be the day's biggest political news story, the conservative news outlet instead focused on allegations regarding former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In a statement, a Fox News representative said the network covered the breaking news "accurately and fairly across both news and opinion programming”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies