Longtime Fox News host Shephard Smith, who was often viewed as a moderate voice on the right-leaning media outlet, announced his resignation from the network Friday amid changes in ownership and increasing criticism for his views.

“Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave. After requesting that I stay, they obliged,” he said on-air at the end of his Shepard Smith Reporting newscast.

Smith had signed a multi-year contract in 2018, along with a non-compete clause preventing him from reporting elsewhere.

“I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future,” he added.

In a statement released by Fox Saturday, Smith expressed gratitude for his 23-year long tenure at the company.

“The opportunities afforded this guy from small-town Mississippi have been many,” Smith said in the statement. “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.”

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Immediately after his announcement, social media users began to circulate theories that Smith had been pushed out of the company in an effort to make the cable news channel more pro-Trump. His exit also occurred two days after a private meeting between Attorney General William Barr and Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, which only added fuel to the speculation. However, Smith and his colleagues were quick to debunk this theory.

Spokesman Chris Giglio stated that “there is absolutely no truth” that Barr’s meeting was related to Smith’s resignation.

“This was Shep’s decision and his alone,” Giglio said in a statement. “He’s taking an extended period of time off to be with his family. Following that who knows — he is not retiring.”

Recently, Smith had faced criticism from Trump as well as Trump supporters for covering news in a way that did not favor the president. Compared to his conservative counterparts, Smith’s ratings were low. He used to have a highly watched evening time slot at 7 p.m. but his show was moved to 3 p.m. in 2013.

In September, Smith got into an on-air spat with conservative host Tucker Carlson after he criticized Smith’s guest.

“I think it probably just got to be too much,” one of Smith’s allies inside Fox News headquarters told CNN.

Carl Cameron, a former chief political correspondent at Fox, said earlier this year, “Shep and I were among the first hires [at Fox] and I give that man huge credit for continuing to do it. I reached my limit.”

Cameron left soon after President Donald Trump‘s inauguration.

Fox News host Neil Cavuto, whose show started shortly after Smith’s statement, seemed shocked by the news.

“Like you, I’m a little stunned and a little heartbroken,” Cavuto told viewers. “I don’t know what to say.”

He added, “So, Shepard, I don’t know what the heck you’re planning to do or where you go, but I just know you’ll be great at doing it and you deserve the best that life has to offer. So I’m sorry if I’m a little shell-shocked here, but I’m going to miss my buddy.”