Shepard Smith debuted his CNBC newscast on Wednesday with a focus on the first presidential debate, as he called out a moment in which President Donald Trump declined to commit to a peaceful transition should he lose.
“Last night the president called into question the heart of our democracy, the peaceful transition of power,” Smith said on the debut of The News with Shepard Smith. “Is there assurance that it will happen? Asked to give it, the president declined, and openly sowed the seeds of distrust in the outcome.”
He later did a segment on rampant election fraud, something that Trump has repeatedly claimed. “There’s nothing to indicate there may be a problem this time,” Smith said.
Smith also cited Joe Biden’s performance in the debate, as when the Democratic nominee called the president “unfit to lead,” and called him a racist, a liar, a clown, and told him to shut up.”
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“We’ve never seen any of this,” Smith said. “Not in America. But from this we march toward the vote.”
Smith, who departed Fox News last October, has said the show will focus on “the facts” and “the truth” (both of which are part of its motto), bypassing panels of pundits and opinion.
In the debut, he made a point of cutting through the noise, literally, as he said a jazzier opener was scrapped in favor of his sobering initial remarks.
“That produced open, as we call it, about a minute. It’s fast, there’s music, it’s compelling and rich with emotion, and that was our plan. That is what we’ll usually do. But as it turns out, in this moment, that’s just the noise. You’ve heard it, and we need to cut through it.”
As it turns out, The News with Shepard Smith has more in common with the broadcast network evening newscasts rather than personality driven shows in cable news primetime.
During the hour, Smith made use of the resources of other NBCUniversal news divisions, as CNBC has been un-siloed from the sister networks. He went around the country to reports from correspondents from CNBC and NBC News, and featured a segment on post-debate poll results with Steve Kornacki, a familiar face on MSNBC. The closest the newscast got to punditry came when Smith did a quick interview about the debate with presidential scholar Michael Beschloss.
“Is there any historical reference that gives us insight?” Smith asked.
“You will never find a fall presidential debate that got this out of control,” Beschloss said.
Some of the standout moments from the show was a look at the Proud Boys, the right wing extremist group that Trump declined to condemn on Tuesday, and a deeper dive on COVID-19 upticks across the country.