By Ben Dimiero
Media Matters for America
When Fox host and senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on "Conspiracy King" Alex Jones’ radio show last week and announced that 9-11 "couldn’t possibly have been done the way the government told us," he seemingly put his employer in a difficult position.
After all, for years Fox hosts and personalities have attacked anyone dabbling in 9-11 conspiracy theories as "Anti-American," "hurtful," "mentally ill," "idiots" that deserve to be "fired immediately."
By Fox News standards, you don’t even have to personally espouse trutherism in order to be attacked. As evidenced by the network’s attacks on Park51 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf because he supposedly "Pals Around With Truthers," if you used to work with someone who later became a truther, you are a fair target for criticism (even if you yourself have emphatically stated that 9-11 was carried out by extremist Muslims.)
Before we discuss Fox News’ astounding non-response to Napolitano’s comments, it’s important to point out that he is not just a random Fox contributor who pops up for occasional analysis — Napolitano is undoubtedly a rising star at the network.
After several years as an analyst at Fox News, Napolitano was handed a weekend show earlier this year at the Fox News Junior Varsity team, more commonly known as Fox Business. His show — which was exclusive to FoxNews.com before being bumped up to FBN — was recently moved to the prime 8pm weekday slot on the network. Napolitano also continues to regularly appear on Fox News to provide input on a wide range of issues.
He has been the recipient of effusive praise from some of Fox’s most prominent on-air personalities as well. When Justice David Souter announced he was retiring from the Supreme Court in 2009, Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy joked that he "would like to officially nominate" Napolitano for the position.
Earlier this year, Glenn Beck called Napolitano "one of the sharpest men I know" and told him that "if I were God of the Universe, you’d be my Supreme Court justice."
In a case of remarkably poor timing, the morning after Napolitano’s appearance on Jones’ radio show — but before his offensive comments had come to light — Beck announced on his radio show that Napolitano "used to" piss him off when Beck was "naïve and foolish" in 2002. Beck said that Napolitano has actually "turned out to be right on almost everything," is "one of the most decent men" he knows, and that if Beck "ever had to go to battle" and "needed people behind" him, Napolitano would be "one of the first" people Beck would call.
Beck apparently thinks so highly of Napolitano that he frequently lets Napolitano serve as his guest host when he takes days off.
While Beck reveres Napolitano, he absolutely loathes anyone even tangentially associated with the 9-11 Truth movement. Last year, Beck repeatedly attacked former White House adviser Van Jones after his name appeared on a 9-11 Truth petition (Jones has stated that he believes Al-Qaeda caused the attacks and that he was lied to about the petition, which was "something that I never saw and never signed onto"). Beck also called for an "investigation" of Imam Rauf over the fact that his former colleague eventually became a truther.
On the March 22, 2007, edition of his CNN Headline News program (accessed via Nexis), Beck spent a large portion of his show debunking 9-11 conspiracy theories with Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine and James Meigs, the editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics.
During the show, Beck called 9-11 conspiracy theorists "nut jobs," "idiots," "dangerous," "anarchists," "the kind of group that a Timothy McVeigh would come from," and "exactly the kind of people who want to rock this nation’s foundation, tear us apart and plant the seeds of dissatisfaction in all of us." Teasing the segment, he said "could these nut jobs also pose a very real threat? You’d better believe it."
Well, what does Beck think of the fact that "one of the sharpest" men he knows — the man he hands the keys of his show over to when he is on vacation — has revealed himself as a dangerous nut job idiot who could pose a very real threat?
It’s anyone’s guess, because Beck hasn’t said a word about it. (In Beck’s defense, he has been busy this week making things up about the food safety bill. And net neutrality. And health care reform. And the Federal Reserve. And the Smithsonian. And Wikipedia. But I digress.)
Beck’s cowardly silence about Napolitano is in keeping with the rest of his network. Despite criticism from 9-11 victims’ families and even numerous conservatives, both Fox News and Napolitano have refused to address the controversy on-air or off.
And, for the record, Napolitano’s promotion of 9-11 conspiracy theories on Jones’ show was no accident — he previously made similar remarks on a Tennessee radio show in May.
During a February 2009 appearance on Fox & Friends, Red Eye host Greg Gutfeld ranted against 9-11 conspiracy theorists and said, "People are too scared to confront 9-11 conspiracies because it’s like the crazy guy on the subway. You don’t want to make eye contact. But sooner or later you’ve gotta make eye contact and tell that guy to get lost." Apparently, when the "crazy guy on the subway" is actually your coworker, at no point do you have to "tell that guy to get lost."
As always, it seems like there is almost nothing a Fox employee can do to warrant getting reprimanded by the network. This entire episode confirms once and for all that loyalty to Fox News trumps all.
And, this being Fox News, Napolitano’s trutherism was not the network’s only foray into promoting conspiracy theories this week.
On Monday’s edition of Fox & Friends, the crew hosted former Republican congressman and current NewsMax columnist John LeBoutillier to promote his book, The Obama Identity. During the segment, LeBoutillier pushed the idea that Obama was actually born in Kenya, without any forceful rebuttal by hosts Steve Doocy or Brian Kilmeade. Both LeBoutillier and the Fox & Friends crew tried to suggest that his "fiction" book may actually have basis in reality. The chyron during the segment was "Fact or Fiction? ‘Obama Identity’ a fictional tale of reality."
So what is this "fictional tale of reality" about? Well, it promotes numerous conspiracy theories about Obama, and, in the words of Media Matters’ Oliver Willis, it not only reads like it was written "in the language of a hormonal teenager," but also apparently features President Obama’s foreskin as a major plot device.
And who is John LeBoutillier? Well, before his current occupation as a professional peddler of insane and discredited conspiracy theories about President Obama, LeBoutillier spent the 90s pushingoutlandish conspiracies about then-President Clinton and his family — including suggesting Clinton killed Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster and had an account "in the Cayman Islands, which is a refuge for drug money."
As we documented, Fox’s promotion of LeBoutillier’s book and Napolitano’s trutherism are in character for the network, which has increasingly become a welcoming place for conspiracy theorists.
Earlier this week, discussing Napolitano, Hot Air’s Allahpundit asked, "Precisely how many of these people does Fox have on staff? Am I going to open a newspaper tomorrow and find out that Megyn Kelly or Julie Banderas thinks the Pentagon was hit by a missile?" Based on the network’s steadfast refusal to comment on the story, it’s impossible to answer that question — to the serious detriment of people at Fox who care about their credibility.
What does it say about Fox hosts like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren and Mike Huckabee — many of whom have repeatedly and explicitly condemned truthers in the past — that they are unwilling to speak out now that their coworker has revealed himself as one?
Are Fox’s "news" anchors — people like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Megyn Kelly — okay with the fact that their bosses refuse to condemn someone who promotes 9-11 conspiracy theories?
And how about Fox personalities like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, Michelle Malkin, and Laura Ingraham? Are they comfortable being employed by a network that refuses to condemn a truther employee and hosts people like John LeBoutillier to suggest the president was born in Kenya?
Based on their (apparently now discarded) standards, the entire Fox staff’s association with a truther like Napolitano should make them a ripe target for criticism.
Is there anyone at Fox whose fealty to the network is outweighed by standards of decency?
This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Ben Dimiero, a research fellow at Media Matters for America.