Say What?

Why Did Fox News Welcome Date Rape Apologist Mike Cernovich?

As Roger Ailes’s sexual harassment scandal continues to unfold, Fox News is being forced to answer why Mike Cernovich was invited to be a guest on ‘Red Eye.’

At the Fox News Channel, when it rains, it pours.

The last thing the embattled cable outlet needs right now—given the escalating fallout over ex-chairman and founder Roger Ailes’s alleged sexual misconduct and mushrooming allegations of a pervasive workplace culture of harassment—is yet another controversy over sexually charged language, racial provocation and vile misogyny.

So some folks, especially conservative activists and pundits who are normally sympathetic to the Fox News brand, are expressing disbelief that male-centric blogger, Twitter troll and ardent Donald Trump fan Mike Cernovich was booked as a guest last week on the cable channel’s popular Red Eye show.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s a nutcase,” said right-wing author and radio host Ben Shapiro. “Granting any legitimacy to a fringe kook like Mike Cernovich, and all of the attendant nastiness and problems, is close to insane by any cable network.”

“Are you serious?” asked Ben Howe, a writer and editor of the conservative blog RedState, when informed of Cernovich’s Fox News appearance. “He was a guest on fucking Red Eye? They’re giving this motherfucker legitimacy? Oh my god!”

A Fox News spokesperson said Red Eye’s producers didn’t know about their guest’s extensive Internet footprint and history of ugly online disputes (including with #NeverTrump pundits Shapiro and Howe). The spokesperson added that Cernovich isn't a paid contributor, and won’t be invited back.

Yet Red Eye host Tom Shillue slathered Cernovich with on-air praise when he appeared on the 3 a.m. August 4 episode to fervently defend Trump and trash Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has reluctantly endorsed the Republican presidential nominee, as a politician who “doesn’t care about America. He wants open borders. He’s a globalist.”

“I love this guy,” Tom Shillue told viewers. “Michael, can you be back here tomorrow night?”

Shillue added: “I love the hell out of the guy, and we’re probably going out after the show and have drinks.”

Whether or not Shillue was aware of Cernovich’s gamey reputation, the 38-year-old non-practicing California lawyer—a self-described “radical free speech proponent,” and the author of Gorilla Mindset, a self-published self-help book promoting male empowerment—is famous to his 78,000-plus Twitter followers for his steady output of offensive and incendiary remarks, a veritable inferno of political incorrectness.

“Have you guys ever tried ‘raping’ a girl without using force?” he tweeted in August 2012. “Try it. It’s basically impossible. Date rape does not exist.”

More recently, last February, he tweeted: “Not being a slut is the only proven way to avoid AIDS. If you love black women, slut shame them.”

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And last month, after five police officers were killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Texas, Cernovich tweeted: “The ‘alt-right’ hasn’t killed anyone, but #BlackLivesMatter regularly slaughters the innocent. Know the real threat. Think! ‪#Dallas.”

All the above are readily available to anybody with access to Cernovich’s Twitter feed.

Then there’s Cernovich’s blog, Danger & Play, in which he endorses various conspiracy theories (“The Orlando Shooter Did Not Act Alone”); muses about an “Expert Analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Physical and Mental Breakdown”; slams the “dishonest website called The Daily Beast”; calls out “16 Feminists Who Have Taken Over ‘Conservative’ Media”; and provides helpful hints on how to avoid being convicted of rape (apparently based on Cernovich’s own experience of beating a felony rape charge, by his own account, after a sexual encounter in college).

Among his tips to at-risk men:

*“Avoid SJWs [Social Justice Warriors]. If a girl you’re on a date with expresses ideals similar to those expressed by social justice bullies, end the date. Stable, emotionally [sic] girls do not become social justice bullies. Smile, pay the bill, and leave immediately.”

*“Film it. Four Hofstra college students were accused of gang-raping a fellow student. They were thrown into jail, and held without bail. Had they gone to trial, they’d have been convicted.

Yet the men were released from prison, after one of the defendant’s lawyers produced a cell phone video of the encounter, proving it was consensual.”

*“If the police call, don’t answer. Did you know that the police can lie to you? Did you know that the police will lie about what you tell them? Police will claim that you confessed to rape, even when you denied it to them. NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE.

It’s a dangerous world out there, guys. Be vigilant. Protect yourselves at all time [sic].”

A Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Cernovich “was a onetime guest…He has nothing to do with the Fox News Channel. The network has no plans to book him for a future appearance.”

This stance, at first blush, seems prudent, considering the avalanche of unpleasant publicity Fox News has endured in the month since fired anchor Gretchen Carlson filed her harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Ailes, the previously all-powerful network chief who, despite his vigorous denial of Carlson’s charges, was forced to resign two weeks ago by top 21st Century Fox executives Lachlan and James Murdoch.

The latest developments include an allegation by Andrea Tantaros, former co-host of Fox’s noon program Outnumbered, that she was banished from the show in April after complaining to Fox News executives that Ailes had repeatedly harassed her.

CNN and BuzzFeed, meanwhile, reported that one of Tantaros’s attorneys sent a letter to Fox in March that didn’t mention Ailes but accused “four Fox News male personalities—two on-air contributors, a correspondent, and a host—of inappropriate behavior.”

The claim that Ailes punished Tantaros after she complained about him—reported by New York magazine—has been denied by Fox, who say she was suspended with pay because she violated network policy by not allowing Fox to conduct a pre-publication vet of her 2016 book, Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What They Wanted Has Made Women Miserable.

If that weren’t enough bad news, Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison reports that multiple Fox News execs are implicated in the scandal, and parent company 21st Century Fox is in negotiations with Carlson for an eight-figure settlement, and that Ailes—who reportedly received a $40 million severance package—might be liable for some of the payments to Carlson.

“At issue in the settlement talks is the existence of audio tapes recorded by multiple women in conversation with Ailes, two people familiar with the tapes said,” Ellison writes.

Arguably worse, CNN reports that 21st Century Fox could be vulnerable to serious legal problems, along with litigation from shareholders, if Ailes, as reported, breached his fiduciary duty by authorizing company payments for illegitimate purposes such as stalking his perceived enemies and other strictly personal concerns.

In addition, CNN says Fox News staffers believed that Ailes, given to paranoia, regularly spied on them and even tapped their phones.

Red Eye’s booking of Mike Cernovich is simply another ingredient in a toxic stew.

“That’s horrifying,” said conservative writer Bethany Mandel, who has also tangled with Cernovich on Twitter. “They should not be giving him any platform of legitimacy whatsoever. It’s a very troubling thing in a post-Ailes Fox.”

In a phone interview, the Los Angeles-based Cernovich told The Daily Beast that he was invited on Red Eye through a “college kid on Reddit” who heard the show was searching for a Trump supporter and recommended him.

Cernovich described the show’s preparation for his appearance—taped on the evening of August 3—as “pretty intense,” adding, “They sent me an email saying ‘here’s 10 articles were going to discuss,’ and when the camera goes on it’s almost live with no editing.”

He said he believes there should be no limits to what can and should be said in public discourse, even if it’s inflammatory or bigoted, and that he frequently tweets something outrageous “just to get a conversation going.”

His observations about sexual assault, he said, were from “a time when I had 40 Twitter followers, and we were talking about girls’ rape fantasies…It’s really hard to explain five years later without context. It looks like I’m advocating rape… People bring up tweets that I don’t even remember, and my general response is ‘I don’t know if I said it. I probably said it.’ It’s just part of what I do. People try to use it to discredit me. That’s just the game.”

Cernovich said his Red Eye appearance was a rousing success, but he acknowledged a return engagement is doubtful because “powerful haters sent emails [to Fox News] saying this person is persona non grata. My appearance went great, but it made a lot of people mad that I was allowed on TV.”

Normally voluble and outrageous, Cernovich, however, had a sudden attack of discretion when asked his thoughts on the troubles surrounding Fox News and Ailes.

“I have not studied it closely enough to form an opinion,” he said.