It took Fox News no more than an hour after Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate to start dabbling in wild speculation and conspiracy theories about the hidden, nefarious reasons behind the pick.
In the day after the ex-veep and presumptive Democratic nominee announced his running mate, Fox News hosts pushed a number of unsupported theories largely centered around two themes: Harris forced her way onto the ticket and intends to usurp or overtake Biden; and/or Biden is not mentally capable of selecting his own running mate, and so Harris was installed by a shadowy, unseen puppeteer.
The New York Times, Associated Press, and several other major news outlets reported that Biden was highly involved in the VP selection process, inviting candidates to his Delaware home for lengthy discussions or personally interviewing them on the phone.
But almost immediately after Harris was announced, The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld repeatedly declared—without the remotest bit of evidence—not only that Biden wasn’t involved in picking the senator, but that she was specifically selected by mysterious party figures to supplant Biden as the nominee (despite the fact that the nominating convention begins in less than a week).
“We can pretty much agree that Joe wasn’t involved in this decision. I don’t believe he was in the room. He might have been in a room, but not the room. Maybe a room with a shawl and hot chocolate,” Gutfeld quipped, though the joke seemed to fall flat as no one on the panel laughed. “I’ll say this again: I don’t think the ticket is done yet.”
His co-host Jesse Watters agreed. “This is kinda like when you go out to a restaurant with your grandfather and you have to order for him,” he said, mimicking showing an elderly person a menu and picking a meal for them. “Joe didn’t make this pick. This pick was made for Joe," Watters blared before pivoting to suggest Harris is a Lady Macbeth-like figure secretly aiming to overtake Biden. “I wouldn’t trust Kamala Harris,” the Fox host declared. “I think she’s very ambitious and we all know Joe’s only running for one term. So you’re basically ushering in someone that’s gonna, I don’t think, have the best intentions.”
Later on Tuesday, pro-Trump host Jeanine Pirro told Sean Hannity that she is “not sure” Biden selected Harris himself. “Who really picked this woman to be the vice presidential candidate?” she wondered. “I believe Joe Biden isn’t even going to be on the ticket in the end because i can’t believe he would pick this woman.”
Pirro doubled down on the assertion following Harris’ speech on Wednesday, saying she believes “something is going to happen” and Biden “isn’t going to be on the ticket,” forcing Fox News host Bret Baier to point out that Biden was set to be officially nominated next week.
The Fox host also boosted on Twitter the right-wing claim that because a photograph of Biden’s call with Harris to tap her as his veep pick showed a script on the desk under his laptop, Biden was not involved in picking the senator and may not have been mentally aware enough to know why he was calling the senator.
“Is anyone surprised Bunker Biden is using a script?” Pirro wrote. “Why do you think they won’t let him out? He can’t complete a thought.”
The following morning, on Fox & Friends, conservative columnist Miranda Devine asserted that “ruthlessly ambitious” Harris will be “quick to push Joe Biden out of the way as soon as she gets a chance.” Similarly, on Tuesday evening, primetime star Laura Ingraham claimed that Biden is ultimately a Trojan Horse for Harris and other unnamed figures to run the party.
Citing Biden’s announcement email, which included the line “Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation,” Ingraham misinterpreted the final four words in a seemingly deliberate manner to suggest: “Wait, wait, ‘to lead this nation’? Wasn’t that you supposed to be on the top of the ticket doing all that leading for us, Joe? You know, that whole presidency then? Come on, man. Even Joe is witted enough to understand that he’s not really going to be running the show if he wins in November.”
Because of the need to fill hours of airtime, cable news as a medium is often rampant with baseless speculation about political matters. Indeed, Fox News is not alone in doing so. For instance, Tuesday afternoon on CNN, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn suggested that President Trump could drop Vice President Mike Pence from his own ticket, a suggestion that CNN host Don Lemon did not linger on.
But the zeal with which Fox News hosts immediately adopted official Trump campaign messaging and the sheer intensity of their factually unsupported theories about Harris suggest the network will be willing to go to great lengths to avoid even remotely even-keeled coverage of the California senator.
Beyond wildly speculating and theorizing about the hidden hands behind Harris’ selection, Fox News stars quickly leaped to label Harris as “phony” or “nasty” or “power-hungry,” directly lifting phrases from the Trump playbook.
Several Fox stars also promptly repeated the Trump campaign line that Harris once called Biden a “racist” (she did not, but the claim was repeated even after Fox’s own Neil Cavuto debunked it on-air).
The network’s coverage of Harris has also mirrored Trumpworld in its wild careening between bashing her as a ruthless cop (a concern-troll seizing upon the actual and long-documented concerns of leftists and civil libertarians who object to the senator’s spotty and often-contradictory record on criminal-justice reform, mass incarceration, and policing the police) while also somehow labeling her, in the words of Hannity, “radical and extreme” (in fact, she ran largely as a “pragmatic” moderate, in stark contrast to the more broadly progressive policies of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren).
And in some cases, since she was announced as the Democratic veep pick, Fox News has even trotted out age-old smears about Harris’ racial identity and personal life.
A common theme on the network since Tuesday afternoon has been that Harris—who is of both Caribbean and Indian descent and graduated from Howard University, a historically Black school—is not Black enough to be considered the first Black woman on a presidential ticket.
Because Harris’ father—who hailed from Jamaica—once claimed to have descended from a plantation owner, far-right commentator Dinesh D’Souza told Laura Ingraham on Tuesday evening the senator is not actually Black. Instead, D’Souza said, she “seems to be descended less from the legacy of, let's say, Frederick Douglass, than she is from the legacy of the plantation itself.”
That line of attack continued Wednesday morning when Stacy Washington, co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, told Fox & Friends that “Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris because she’s a Black woman, but to most Black Americans she’s not” because “she is not descended from slaves, she is descended from slave owners.”
The “not actually Black” theory was once touted by Trumpworld. Last summer, Donald Trump Jr. briefly boosted to his millions of followers a tweet that claimed “Kamala Harris is *not* an American Black. She is half Indian and half Jamaican.”
Elsewhere, on Tuesday evening, Tucker Carlson suggested that Harris owes her career to her past sexual relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. When Fox Nation star Tomi Lahren suggested the same last summer—tweeting “Kamala did you fight for ideals or did you sleep your way to the top with Willie Brown?”—many of her co-workers publicly criticized her and she was forced to apologize. So far, no word from those same colleagues on Carlson’s remarks.