Steve Doocy went to journalism school?
“When I was in journalism school, I had a professor who said if you put your opinion in it, that belongs in the op-ed pages,” the Fox & Friends cohost mused on the air, with little sense of irony or self-awareness. “Otherwise, it’s who, what, when, where, and why.”
The 60-year-old Doocy, who indeed received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas in 1979, shared his surprising revelation amid the Fox News Channel morning show’s multi-pronged and partisan assault Wednesday on cable competitor CNN for allegedly blackmailing a defenseless private citizen, a defenseless teenager at that, and being brutish and nasty to President Donald Trump.
Wednesday’s blitz amounted to a ferocious and occasionally fact-challenged counterattack against CNN’s coverage of the commander-in-chief’s much-criticized Sunday retweet of a GIF in which the pre-presidential Trump body-slammed and pummeled his prostrate victim (actually WWE impresario Vince McMahon, during a January 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw), with the CNN logo replacing McMahon’s head.
Disturbingly, the CNN investigative reporter who first tracked down the Reddit user who acknowledged being the original source of the wrestling GIF that the president retweeted—“K-File” leader Andrew Kaczynski—has been targeted for harassment, apparently by anonymous Trump supporters. (Buzzfeed reported that this included death threats.)
According to a source familiar with the situation, Kaczynski’s wife and parents are scared after receiving more than 50 telephone calls each in the past two days, while other members of the “K-File” team have received harassing messages left at their homes.
“We are coming for you,” alt-right Trump-backing troll Mike Cernovich threatened on Twitter, adding the increasingly popular hashtag #CNNBlackMail.
CNN sleuth Kaczynski, of the K-File political investigations unit, reported on Tuesday that the original source of the presidentially-retweeted GIF is a Reddit user who goes by the moniker “HanAssholeSolo,” and has also posted material containing anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and racist imagery.
Among his bigoted posts, highlighted in an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League, was a June 2017 photo gallery of CNN anchors and executives with Stars of David attached to their pictures. “Something strange about CNN...can't quite put my finger on it...” read the creepy caption.
Doocy and various Fox & Friends guests repeated the erroneous assertion—apparently originated by alt-right troll Jack Posobiec, and repeated on social media by Donald Trump Jr.—that CNN was targeting a defenseless 15-year-old, or, as Posobiec put it in a since-deleted tweet: “I can confirm Reddit user HanAholoSolo is 15 and is an LGBT Trump supporter.”
The actual Reddit user—a middle-aged man, according to CNN—said somebody else added a soundtrack to the Trump-McMahon GIF from Reddit and re-posted the altered video somewhere else online before the delighted president apparently discovered it on Twitter.
The Reddit user also acknowledged his ugly online behavior, deleted the bigoted material and apologized for it in writing, and then granted an interview to Kaczynski, who agreed not to identify him because of his “fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family,” as he wrote in Tuesday’s story.
Kaczynski wrote: “CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo's’ name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.”
Yet in a sentence that Fox & Friends anchors and guests—and even Intercept editor Glenn Greenwald—interpreted as coercion or even a blackmail threat, Kaczynski added: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” (A CNN insider told The Daily Beast that the sentence was added in the editing process, for the sake of transparency, and without any expectation that people would perceive it as somehow menacing.)
On Wednesday CNN said in a statement: “CNN decided not to publish the name of the Reddit user out of concern for his safety. Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false. The user, who is an adult male, not a 15-year-old boy, apologized and deleted his account before ever speaking with our reporter. CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user. In fact, CNN included its decision to withhold the user's identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal.”
Fox & Friends’ sustained onslaught, meanwhile, came as CNN remains under fire from the right, and especially from the president and his acolytes, for what the network acknowledged was a poorly sourced, badly vetted story last month alleging a Trump/Russia connection that resulted in the resignations of three of its journalists, including a Pulitzer Prize-winner.
“They should not be commenting on him if that network wants to retain any sense of credibility,” New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, a former New York Times City Hall reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily News editorial page editor, advised Doocy, adding that standards of fairness and objectivity have “all been thrown overboard because the media hated Donald Trump.”
Goodwin added: "The people at CNN--they detest Donald Trump with every fiber of their being."
In segment after segment, Fox & Friends anchors and guests accused CNN and other non-Fox outlets of sensationalizing the president’s innocent retweet. The show tauntingly replayed video clips of Republican consultant Ana Navarro on ABC and New York magazine columnist Frank Rich on MSNBC both warning that it could incite violence against journalists.
The anchors mocked CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, a merciless Fox & Friends critic, for comparing Trump’s persistent trashing of the press to the language of authoritarian leaders like Hugo Chavez, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin.
“Who was that?” cohost Brian Kilmeade asked derisively after the Stelter clip was repeated a second time.
Teasing another segment, in which Washington Examiner columnist Byron York dismissed the president’s retweet as the harmless jape of an “entertainer”—in contrast, say, to a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which the assassinated Caesar looked a lot like Trump, or Kathy Griffin’s ill-advised pose holding a bloodied Trump-like head (Fox News finally pixelated the disturbing image on Wednesday, as other outlets have done all along, after many days of showing it unretouched)—cohost Ainsley Earhardt declared: “President Trump calling out the fake news media for what it is, and the liberal press can’t seem to take it.”
Approvingly citing York, she added with a winning smile, “Our next guest says this misplaced fear [of violence against reporters] just distracts from the more realistic fear of leftwing extremism.”
Officially CNN ascribed no motive to its critics, including its cable rival. But in mid-June, during a breakfast with reporters, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker called Fox News “state-run TV.”
“Very little that Fox does surprises me,” he said then.