A Fox News reporter on Thursday called out two of his colleagues for sounding “like a White Supremacist chat room” when they attempted to defend President Trump’s infamous “both sides” comment about white supremacists in Charlottesville, according to internal emails reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign with a video bashing Trump’s comments that there were “good people on both sides” at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally, general assignment reporter Doug McKelway sprang into action to defend the president.
McKelway, a nine-year Fox News veteran, sent an email to dozens of network employees, saying he was “Putting this Biden statement out there, next to Trump’s original presser, and a live interview I did in C-ville with ‘good people on both sides’” to supposedly fact-check Biden. The emails were first published by FTV Live.
McKelway began his email with a Winston Churchill quote: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” He then proceeded to echo the pro-Trump claim that the president never said what he said about the neo-Nazis who marched at the deadly event.
McKelway contrasted portions of Biden’s script against the same quotes that pro-Trump outlets have used to claim the president never defended white nationalists. And then the reporter highlighted a quote from his own interview with Brian Lambert, an armed Unite the Right attendee, who portrayed the neo-Nazi rallygoers as victims: “They’re denying people their right to assemble. They’re denying their right to speak freely, however hateful their views may be,” he bemoaned.
Moments later, Fox News digital senior editor Cody Derespina replied-all, agreeing with McKelway, and adding to it a snippet of a Fox News interview with Jarrod Kuhn, a Charlottesville marcher who claimed he was not a white supremacist, but simply there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Within minutes of that email, Fox News Radio’s White House correspondent Jon Decker stepped in to chastise his colleagues.
“I really don’t understand the point you are making,” he wrote. “Jarrod Kuhn was one of those individuals in Charlottesville holding a tiki torch while the mob chanted ‘Jews will not replace us.’”
An hour later, a seemingly humbled McKelway returned to the thread, walking back his previous words. He linked to an article from C-Ville, a Charlottesville alt-weekly, that showed his one-time interviewee Brian Lambert was, in fact, a white nationalist who trespassed in local parks, removed tarps off Confederate statues, placed rebel flag stickers on surfaces, and flashed a white-power symbol to supporters during his sentencing hearing.
“[I]t appears Lambert revealed himself to be not the squeaky clean 1st amendment supporter he claimed to be on live TV,” McKelway confessed.
“So much for your Winston Churchill quote,” Decker shot back hours later for all to see.
He scolded McKelway for “invoking Churchill to what happened in Charlottesville,” calling it “rather offensive.”
In fact, Decker continued, “Based upon the slew of emails that I’ve received today, both of you should send an apology to your Fox News colleagues—many of whom are hurt and infuriated by your respective posts. Your posts read like something you’d read on a White Supremacist chat room.”
McKelway has a history of questionable comments about the deadly Charlottesville rally. Several days after anti-racism protester Heather Heyer was killed by white nationalist James Alex Fields at the rally, McKelway retweeted one user telling his Fox News colleague Shep Smith to “keep some comments to yourself.”
As it turns out, moments before, when McKelway equivocated on-air to Smith about how all Charlottesville residents—regardless of political beliefs—couldn’t wait for the national media to leave town, Smith replied, “Yeah, they probably can’t wait for the neo-Nazis to leave either.”
When asked for comment on the retweet telling his colleague to shut up, McKelway snarkily offered an autographed picture of himself.
Additionally, prior to the 2016 election, McKelway defended the alt-right on Fox News, claiming it was simply “using the same tactics that the left has used for generations now.” He further asserted that the alt-right is “much more than” an anti-Semitic, white-nationalist movement, citing Milo Yiannopoulos for his efforts in combating “the left’s obsession with... safe spaces.” (Yiannopoulos’ career as a provocateur collapsed when audio of him encouraging pederasty.)
And a year before that, McKelway compared the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse to the Soviet practice of airbrushing purged dissidents out of official photographs.
In the aftermath of the deadly Charlottesville rally, several prominent Fox News hosts like Smith did admonish Trump for his “both sides” comment, but plenty of others publicly defended him. Most notably: The Five co-host and Trump booster Jesse Watters said the president was just trying to get “all the facts,” while host and unofficial Trump adviser Sean Hannity asked why the media was not focusing on the “alt-left.”
UPDATE: McKelway did not respond to an initial request for comment. However, three days after the publication of this story, he began publicly lashing out at one of the authors of this piece, throwing in a non-sequitur about how Biden voted to re-instate Robert E. Lee’s citizenship in 1975—a fact wholly unrelated to whether the president praised “both sides” of the deadly Charlottesville rally.