Shepard Smith departing Fox News after 23 years

Smith joined the network in 1996.

Shepard Smith, longtime anchor of "Shepard Smith Reporting," is stepping down from his role at Fox News, the network announced Friday.

Smith was the chief news anchor and managing director of Fox's breaking news unit as well as the anchor of his eponymous show. He joined Fox News in 1996.

The anchor has gained attention in recent years for not being afraid to criticize the Trump administration. Smith has often been a target of President Donald Trump's tweets -- as recently as on Thursday.

Friday afternoon's episode of his show will be the final one, the network said.

"Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter. After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged," Smith said in a statement. "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."

"Shep is one of the premier newscasters of his generation and his extraordinary body of work is among the finest journalism in the industry," Fox News President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace said. "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."

News of Smith's departure seemed to have caught others at Fox News off guard. Video spread on social media of anchor Neil Cavuto visibly surprised, on-air, as he reacted to the news.

Fox News' Bret Baier said the news "brought about a little shock" for them and shared his farewell broadcast on Twitter.