Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has rubbished claims that he was demoted because he planned to come out.

Gawker had claimed in an article on Wednesday that Smith was demoted after he approached Fox News president Roger Ailes last summer, asking to be able to come out publicly.

Last year, Smith was moved from the network’s primetime coverage to his own show in the 3pm slot.

Sources told Gawker: “Roger has known Shep has been gay for a long time.

“This came up during contract negotiations. Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said no.”

An insider said: “They tried to play it up as a big promotion, but everyone knew that Shep was getting demoted. And the coming out thing was a significant part of that.”

In a memo to staff today, Smith said: “I came to fox news 18 years ago because they agreed to hire me. I’ve stayed with fox news because of my relationship with Roger Ailes.

“He’s my boss, my friend and my steadfast supporter both professionally and personally.

“Things you might read today are horseshit.”

Joking about CNN’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines crash, he labelled the claims “as phony as 24-hour breaking news on The Plane Channel.”

Fox News executive Bill Shine said: “We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction.”