“Fox & Friends” co-hosts, from left, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade appear on their set in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Media critic

“Really!” “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said Friday morning. No snarky expression of disbelief, this was a genuine moment of wonder and possibility.

To what was Earhardt reacting?

The conspiracy theory of the week, as it was laid out Thursday by conservative judicial activist Ed Whelan on Twitter. You know, the one in which he used web mapping, floor plans, old photographs and ideological whimsy to spin the possibility that a Brett Kavanaugh doppelganger may have been guilty of the sexual assault alleged by Christine Blasey Ford.

On the set of “Fox & Friends” first thing Friday morning, co-host Steve Doocy rolled out the Whelan case, as follows: “A fellow by the name of Ed Whelan, who had been one of the clerks for Antonin Scalia and a supporter of Judge Kavanaugh. He looked at what Christine Ford told The Washington Post and figured out: Okay, these people were named, these four people, where did they live? And looked at what she had said and figured out what house it may have happened at, because it was a house closest to the golf course, and then realized whose house it was and looked at a picture of the young man who lived there at the time, who was a classmate of Mr. Kavanaugh’s. Put up side by side images — they look a lot a like.”

That’s when Earhardt had her “really” moment.

Now: Doocy and colleague Ed Henry did cite Ford’s statement that there was “zero chance” of mistaken identity in this case. Henry concluded, “So we’ll see.” Then he launched into a riff about how people were geared up for a discussion of law and society in the Kavanaugh hearings, but instead they got nothing but political gamesmanship. “A few weeks ago we were teeing up that this is going to be amazing, this is going to be a real clash of ideas, they’re going to talk about abortion, they’re going to talk about gun rights,” Henry said. “All these big things before the high court. And what happened … they had those three or four days of confirmation hearings and from the opening moments, it was resist, it was protesters screaming, shouting down … Kavanaugh, shouting down senators.”

Regarding Ford’s allegations, Henry lamented: “All the focus has been about politics, and all of that, instead of the actual substance of the allegations.”

A show interested in substance might have steered clear of Whelan’s tweets, whose flimsiness was well established before the program aired Friday morning. A bit later, Whelan himself bailed on the entire proposition (and “Fox & Friends” did show this apology to its viewers) :

So it’s fair to say that “Fox & Friends” made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment as well. One of many, many such moments on television’s worst news program.

Updated to note that “Fox & Friends” showed Whelan’s apology tweet to viewers.