Roger Ailes (Charles Sykes/Invision/Associated Press)
Flacks for Fox News are going to need a spring break. Yesterday, senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano reemerged on the network’s airwaves after getting in trouble for alleging — based on unnamed sources — that the United Kingdom assisted President Barack Obama in surveilling presidential candidate Donald Trump. “You’ve had a few quiet days,” said host Bill Hemmer, in a clever allusion to Napolitano’s short time on the Fox News bench. After Napolitano surfaced these claims on an opinion show — the idiotic “Fox & Friends” — a representative from the network’s news side, Shepard Smith, memorably countered them on air: “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way, full stop.” Smith was forced to issue that statement after a spokesman for the British GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) issued a statement thrashing the Napolitano report, which had been cited by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
And yet: Napolitano was allowed to re-commit himself to his “scoop” on a news-side program of Fox News. Asked by Hemmer whether he stood by his story, Napolitano responded, “Yes, I do, and the sources stand by it. And the American public needs to know more about this rather than less because a lot of the government surveillance authorities will expire in the fall and there’ll be a great debate about how much authority we want the government to have to surveil us.”
If you watch the segment carefully, you’ll note something bizarre: Neither Napolitano nor Hemmer actually repeated the claims about the British; they referred to it in the most elliptical, tiptoeing manner. So Fox News viewers who hadn’t followed this particular Fox News slip-up would have had no idea what Hemmer and Napolitano were talking about.
As if all the weirdness of the Napolitano meltdown weren’t enough for Fox News watchers to break down, there’s so much more out there. Two black women are slapping the network with suit for “top-down racial harassment” in the company’s payroll department. Company comptroller Judith Slater, claims the suit, told colleagues that black men were “women beaters,” among other alleged offenses, according to an account in the New York Times.
Then there’s Bill O’Reilly. On Tuesday morning, he appeared on the idiotic morning show “Fox & Friends.” The hosts played some video of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) ripping Trump in an address. O’Reilly observed and then insulted: “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.” After co-host Ainsley Earhardt scolded O’Reilly for focusing on the politician’s looks, O’Reilly said, “She’s a sincere individual. Whatever she says, she believes. She’s not a phony — and that’s old school.”
Old school, huh? Well, that just so happens to double as the title of O’Reilly’s new book. “Speaking of ‘old school,’ you’ve got this new book coming out,” said co-host Steve Doocy. So, get the sequence: O’Reilly insulted Waters, then softened his criticism in a way that segued into the promotion of his new book. His former boss, Roger Ailes, called him a “book salesman with a TV show.” O’Reilly later apologized.
This spasm of Fox News news comes after a report that a federal probe of Fox News appears to extend to “a number of potential crimes, including whether Fox News executives broke laws by allegedly obtaining journalists’ phone records or committed mail and wire fraud by hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.”
Which came after a report that Fox News had reached a settlement with a former contributor who’d claimed to have been sexually assaulted by an executive for Fox News Latino two years ago.
Which came after a statement from a group noting that Fox News is “open and agreeable” to stories that reflect the lives of Asian Americans — a development that stemmed from a racist segment last fall by O’Reilly protege Jesse Watters, who toured New York’s Chinatown in search of feedback on U.S. politics and came up with a fistful of Asian stereotypes.
Which came after an “O’Reilly Factor” segment that featured a bogus expert on Sweden. O’Reilly admitted fault.
Which came after a fear-mongering segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” regarding Sweden, immigration and crime — a segment that Trump awkwardly cited at a Florida rally.
Which came after co-hosts on the idiotic “Fox & Friends” failed to cross-examine White House adviser Kellyanne Conway after she plugged Ivanka Trump’s products on air.
Which came after news surfaced that the network’s parent company had settled a sexual harassment claim from a former employee against O’Reilly.
Which came after the idiotic show “Fox & Friends” ran a bogus story about food-stamp fraud. The network apologized.
Which came after host Bret Baier, just before the 2016 presidential election, alleged that there was an impending indictment stemming from a federal investigation of the Clinton Foundation. He later termed the report a mistake.
All of which came after a months-long sexual-harassment scandal at Fox News over the actions of former chief Roger Ailes, who has denied all the claims against him.
If only Fox News broke as many stories about presidents, lawmakers and CEOs as it does about its own internal workings!