A comic seeking good material to pan Fox News coverage need look no further than its monumentally dumb morning program, “Fox & Friends.” So it’s no wonder that Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” ran a clip of Brian Kilmeade, one of the “Fox & Friends” co-hosts, saying the following about Las Vegas massacre propagator Stephen Paddock:
“Bin Laden — we knew who to hate. You saw Sandy Hook? We knew that mutant living in his basement. We don’t even know enough about him to hate him yet,” said Kilmeade.
With the softball launched right at him, Noah swung for the fences: “That is so true. How do you hate someone who’s killed 59 people? Because he’s not Muslim. He wasn’t known to be mentally ill, he doesn’t kneel for the anthem, he’s just a rich white guy who shot people at a country music concert. How do you hate him? There’s nothing to hate.”
Everything about the coverage of mass shootings is rote. We’ve seen the patterns way too many times before. At Fox News, part of the reflex response is to do the work of the National Rifle Association by simply refusing to discuss gun control. That’s just outrageous, a dishonor to the victims. “Do you need to politicize this today?” asked Fox News’s Kimberly Guilfoyle, in a clip highlighted by Noah.
And in a juxtaposition reminiscent of the Fox News sendups executed by predecessor Jon Stewart, Noah then cited how Fox News folks were very quick to talk politics in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre in June 2016. That attack was committed by Omar Mateen, who had proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State. “In the wake of this attack, you wonder whether people like that should be coming here,” said Brit Hume the day after the Pulse killings.
The grand feat of Fox News distortion following the Las Vegas killings came from none other than Jesse Watters, the longtime pupil of now-dethroned King of Cable News Bill O’Reilly. Showing a creativity and cravenness typical of his mentor, Watters noted that law enforcement officials were running toward the shooter while the crowds were dispersing in the opposite direction. “All those kneelers in the NFL out there, they need to recognize … they’re kneeling, and we’re supposed to be honoring law enforcement, law enforcement that’s trying to save lives, not take lives,” said Watters.
“Wow,” exclaimed Noah. “Did this guy just find a way to use the mass shooting to pivot back to the NFL argument? Like after watching this you’d be thinking: Hundreds of people shot in Las Vegas. Colin Kaepernick, you son of a b––––.”
None of the commentary, however, reached quite as far as that of Ainsley Earhardt — again, on “Fox & Friends.” She had a theory connected to the fact that the shooter opened fire on a country music festival. “His brother said he didn’t believe in God or didn’t have a god or didn’t have faith in his life. So maybe — this is all speculation — but that possibly could be the reason, because he knows country musicians or country music fans are normally pro-God and go to church on Sundays. Maybe he has a problem with that, or had a problem with that,” said Earhardt. Her “Fox & Friends” colleagues sat in silence.
Cable news is on at all hours, meaning that hosts have too much time to fill with blather and half-constructed thoughts and theories. As this blog noted on Monday, CNN hosts foolishly scrambled to praise an unremarkable speech by President Trump regarding the massacre. Yet the contradictions and depravity of Fox News commentary — particularly on opinion shows such as “Fox & Friends,” “Hannity” and “The Five” — are indeed an outlier in an often bumbling industry sector. Witness Sean Hannity’s invocation of his own history with guns in the context of preventing mass shootings — a bit of nonsensicality that Noah parodied in a way that we won’t attempt to abridge here.