Jennifer Griffin caused an unexpected media firestorm Friday when she did something fairly routine for a reporter: A competitor had broken a story on her beat, so she set out to see whether she could match it.
Other beat reporters had confirmed aspects of the Atlantic story, too. But the fact Griffin works for Fox, whose opinion hosts and corporate owners are seen as reliable supporters and defenders of the president, turned her revelations into a watershed development. It led to Trump’s call for her firing late Friday on Twitter — and an impassioned pushback from Fox News colleagues defending her journalistic honor.
In a nine-tweet thread Friday afternoon, Griffin cited two unnamed former senior administration officials who she said confirmed for her many key aspects of Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg’s story about Trump’s cancellation of a trip to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery while visiting Paris in 2018.
Two former sr Trump admin officials confirm .@JeffreyGoldberg reporting that President Trump disparaged veterans and did not want to drive to honor American war dead at Aisne-Marne Cemetery outside Paris.— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) September 4, 2020
“According to one former senior Trump administration official: ‘When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker,’ ” she wrote. “When asked IF the President could have driven to the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, this former official said confidently: ‘The President drives a lot. The other world leaders drove to the cemeteries. He just didn’t want to go.’ ”
Later, she noted on Baier’s “Special Report” show that she was unable to confirm “the most salacious allegation,” in Goldberg’s story, “that the president described the American war dead at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery as ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ ”
Just before midnight Friday, the president shared a Breitbart.com story about Griffin’s reporting and said, “Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. @FoxNews is gone!”
Before the president took aim at her reporting, Griffin took veiled shots from some of her colleagues, most notably contributor Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor for the Federalist. After Fox News national correspondent Jacqui Heinrich shared Griffin’s reporting, Hemingway wrote: “Reminder: it is literally impossible for anonymous sources to ‘confirm’ a report, particularly when the original report is based solely on anonymous sources. The same people can repeat claims to multiple reporters, of course, particularly when engaged in a campaign operation.”
Elsewhere on Fox News, Griffin’s reporting did not seem to persuade some of her colleagues, including “The Five” co-host Greg Gutfeld, who called the Atlantic’s story “a hoax” and “a scam” that was “created in a lab.”
But Trump’s attack on Griffin was a bridge too far for her colleagues, seven of whom took to Twitter during the weekend to defend her.
“Jennifer @JenGriffinFNC is a great reporter and a total class act,” wrote Baier, the network’s chief political anchor.
“Jennifer Griffin is the kind of reporter we all strive to be like,” said national correspondent Bryan Llenas. “She’s courageous, smart, ethical, fair and a class act. She’s earned the trust of viewers throughout a distinguished career and is credibile.”
“@JenGriffinFNC is a terrific reporter and a wonderful colleague,” State Department correspondent Rich Edson wrote.
“I’ll forever stand by @JenGriffinFNC,” said senior news producer Rocco Aloe.
“Jennifer Griffin is all you want in a journalist and a friend,” wrote senior field producer Yonat Friling. “She’s smart, courageous, she strives for professionalism and the truth. I am so proud to be her colleague.”
Although Griffin’s reporter, producer and anchor colleagues defended her from criticism, Fox News Channel has not yet commented on Trump’s attack, in line with how the network has handled broadsides from the president throughout his administration.
Griffin, who joined Fox News in 1999, is one of the network’s most prized and distinguished journalists. In October 2019, after news anchor Shepard Smith, a frequent critic of the president, abruptly resigned, the network cited Griffin as evidence that a robust journalistic corps remained, despite external skepticism. “Tell that to Jennifer Griffin, whose report just went viral this week,” a spokesperson said at the time. “Or Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Bill Hemmer, Martha MacCallum or Catherine Herridge, who have all done outstanding journalism.” (Herridge soon left the network for CBS News.)
“Jennifer is a straight shooter and always pursues reporting with the goal of uncovering the truth,” former Fox News foreign correspondent Conor Powell, who worked with Griffin, told The Washington Post on Saturday. “Unlike a lot of ‘news people’ at Fox News, she never was worried about being on the wrong side of a story and angering the opinion shows.”
Griffin defended herself during an appearance on Fox News on Saturday. “My sources are unimpeachable,” she said. “I feel very confident with what we have reported at Fox. Not every line of the Atlantic article did I confirm, but I would say that most of the descriptions and the quotes in that Atlantic article, I did find people who were able to confirm, and so I feel very confident in my reporting. … I’m a reporter, and it was my job to report what I heard.”
Anchor Neil Cavuto then endorsed her work. “Jennifer, you are a very good reporter,” he told her. Then, addressing his audience, he said, “She’s pretty scrupulous when it comes to making sure all the i’s are dotted, all the t’s are crossed.”