The big banana-shaped sofa on the set of “Fox & Friends” has almost always been a safe space for President Trump. It’s where Steve Doocy once told Trump he was glad they were friends, and where Brian Kilmeade remarked that Trump looked very “big” on TV.
It’s the couch where Ainsley Earhardt sat one morning last year and reminded people that Trump “is the boss” — after he fired the FBI director and upset many people who were not co-hosts of Trump’s favorite morning show.
But on Wednesday, assuming Trump was watching “Fox & Friends” as he so often does, he would have heard a rare public scolding from the couch.
“Last night, he chose to blow it,” Kilmeade said as Doocy and Earhardt looked at him with silent concern.
Kilmeade meant a political rally Trump spoke at the previous evening, amid the latest public crisis to engulf his administration: sexual assault accusations against the president’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Trump had digressed in the middle of his stump speech in Mississippi to mock one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford. “ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ” Trump said to the crowd, referencing Ford’s recent testimony in which she told senators Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a high school party in the 1980s. “ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.' ”
The crowd laughed.
But the next morning, even Republican senators who have supported Kavanaugh’s nomination condemned Trump’s comedy bit.
And in a rarity, Kilmeade joined them — even if he wrapped his criticism in several layers of support for the president and his nominee.
“We don’t know how she knows Brett M. Kavanaugh; we don’t know what house it took place in,” he said of Ford’s allegation. “Is that enough to destroy someone’s career, life and reputation?”
“However, the tactic of the president laying low has been lauded by all sides,” Kilmeade continued, regarding the previous week-and-a-half in which Trump had mostly refrained from attacking the nominee’s multiple accusers. “Last night he chose to blow it, as the FBI is handing in the report as early as today. . . . As much as the crowd loved it, I wonder about the wisdom, tactically, of him doing that.”
A note about Kilmeade: He is arguably the most rebellious of the “Fox & Friends” co-hosts, not that it’s a particularly high bar.
In a Los Angeles Times report — one of many that have described the president’s love of the show and the co-hosts' reciprocal fondness for the president — Kilmeade argued that he has taken Trump to task many times.
“Kilmeade ... disapproves of Trump calling the news media ‘the enemy,’ ” the Times wrote, for example.
Another: When Trump complained on Twitter this summer about “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” Kilmeade made an issue of it on the show.
“I don’t understand this tweet,” he told a guest. “Would you really say ‘foolishness and stupidity’ is a correct characterization?”
A month later, in August, Kilmeade lamented that former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman had “outsmarted the president” by writing a tell-all book about his chaotic administration.
Trump has “taken the bait and gone out and directly tweeted at her,” Kilmeade said, worrying that attacking Newman would only help sell more copies of her book.
But Kilmeade rarely presses such criticisms, and they are vastly outnumbered by the times he has defended the president or praised him.
Witness what happened on the show immediately after he called out Trump’s public mockery of Ford:
“Well, there were holes in her story,” Earhardt told Kilmeade, seated beside him on the big sofa.
Doocy agreed with her.
When the camera cut back to Kilmeade, he maintained that “sexual assault is deadly serious.”
But, he added, many of the other accusations endangering Kavanaugh’s nomination amounted to “college kids acting like many college kids.”
“Fox & Friends” then moved on from the topic entirely. A few minutes later, Kilmeade was talking about how easy it would be for Trump to win reelection.
“He’s going to have a very strong report card,” he said.