Fox News has been hammered with a good deal of bad publicity this week, all stemming from David Carr's takedown of the network's PR operation in Monday's New York Times. One downside to FNC's aggressive attitude toward the press is that their own stars get relatively less attention than other cable news icons like Keith Olbermann or Anderson Cooper. Rachel Sklar points out that Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is "a handsome, affable and hard-working straight-up news guy" who's been "under-covered." That's true, and also lends itself to a "straight-up" joke, considering our past coverage of him as a closeted gay man. As we enter the new, liberal age of Obama, America is ready for real diversity-and Smith's gay status has now become conventional wisdom .

Profiles of Smith from the Observer and New York magazine have hinted at his sexuality in the past, but they've both been reluctant to come right out and say he's gay. But the anchor's new profile on Cityfile sums it up thusly:

Smith has repeatedly dodged the question of his sexuality, but in 2005 he was outed in a column in the Washington Blade. Kevin Naff, the managing editor of the gay weekly, said that Smith "chatted me up in a New York City gay piano bar, bought me drinks, and invited me back to his place." He lives in a two-bedroom West Village loft that he purchased for $1.87 million in 2004. Fashion designer (and fellow gay) Michael Kors lives in the same building.

Fox News has, essentially, a ready-made conservative counterpart for Anderson Cooper just waiting to be promoted correctly. Having Smith as the face of the network could go a long way towards imbuing it with a slightly more open image-a hint of progressivism, with all the staid respectability that the middle American audience expects in its newsmen. And once Obama is elected and the backlash against the Bush years begins in earnest, Fox News will need someone less harsh than Bill O'Reilly to make peace with the national mood.

It is, in all seriousness, a fine idea. Fox News should give it some consideration.

[Huffpo, CityFile, Previously]