Days after Brett M. Kavanaugh was sworn in as the nation’s 114th Supreme Court justice, a Fox News Channel analyst criticized President Trump for the way he characterized the events leading up to the controversial confirmation.
Speaking from the “Fox & Friends” couch early Tuesday morning, Judge Andrew Napolitano called out Trump for using the words “evil” and “hoax” to describe the sexual assault allegations against the newly appointed justice. Napolitano was referencing Trump’s remarks over the weekend that Kavanaugh had been “caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats” and that it was simply “a disgraceful situation brought about by people that are evil.”
“I honestly wish that the president and his people would get past that,” the judge said, according to Mediaite.
“The Supreme Court does not have an army to enforce its rulings; its rulings depend upon the intellectual legitimacy of the manner in which the rulings are given from whom they are given. So they really have some work to do to patch up the divisions that exist in the public mind. These divisions don’t exist in reality in the court. Justice Kavanaugh is right: It’s not conservatives on one side, liberals on another, Republicans on one side, Democrats on another.”
Fox News did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
However, the judicial analyst applauded Kavanaugh for vowing to “always be a team player on a team of nine.”
Napolitano, who has earned a reputation for remaining nonpartisan while delivering his assessments, argued that he, too, went through the political process. But he said that “once you put that robe on, you must be divorced from the politics that got you there and the people that got you there because your loyalty is to the Constitution and to the laws — not to the human beings that helped you get your job.”
Napolitano said he believes Kavanaugh “fully understands that."
He then went back to Trump.
“I was also upset the president was calling him by his first name,” Napolitano said, referring to Kavanaugh. “He’s Justice Kavanaugh; he’s not our boy Brett anymore.”
As The Washington Post previously reported, Napolitano, or Judge Nap, a former county judge-turned-TV personality, has “avoided catering to partisan and tribal outrage” — even as it spewed from both parties during Kavanaugh’s contentious Supreme Court confirmation. In fact, Napolitano appeared to take a neutral stance — defending neither Kavanaugh nor his main accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
“He has set the standard for giving nonideological, nonpartisan, nontribal-based commentary and analysis,” Nick Gillespie, editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, said last week following Ford and Kavanaugh’s emotional testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It just seemed to me that the judge added a really rare but welcome voice.”
Gillespie described Napolitano as someone who places principles over partisanship, and who is outspoken and critical without resorting to ad hominem attacks.
All this is not to say that Napolitano, who’s been with Fox News since 1998, is not political.
He’s a staunch libertarian who strongly opposes abortion. He’s a fierce advocate of small government and deregulation, and has criticized Vice President Pence for allowing government to keep same-sex couples from getting married. He sees government surveillance and wiretapping as an affront to the Constitution and said in a 2010 C-Span interview that President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney should have been indicted for authorizing the use of torture. He’s highly skeptical of foreign involvement and military intervention, and was against the Obama administration’s prosecution of journalists.
It’s also not to say that he hasn’t created his own share of controversy.
Last year, Fox News pulled Napolitano from the air over his baseless claim — repeated by President Trump — that British intelligence officials spied on Trump at the request of President Barack Obama. Nearly two weeks later, he was back on air and doubling down on his claims.
In 2012, he said Obama secretly signed a bill that could restrict free speech when the president is nearby — a claim that PolitiFact rated as “pants on fire” false.
But in this hyperpolarized age of cable networks, Napolitano has become the difference “between an intellectual and a hack,” said Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate who unsuccessfully ran for president multiple times and who has known Napolitano for a decade.
“I’ve always looked at him as much more independent minded than the usual Fox News analyst. They’re more like company people. They know what the brand of Fox News is and they embellish it regularly,” Nader said. “He’s in a tough spot because he can’t be a complete maverick all the time.”