During two separate occasions on Monday afternoon, Fox News anchors Shepard Smith and Neil Cavuto had to dump out of interviews after their guests wildly speculated and parroted conspiracy theories that the blaze that suddenly destroyed much of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was an intentionally malicious act.
While anchoring breaking-news coverage of the fire, Smith interviewed witness Philippe Karsenty, the deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine and a controversial right-wing media figure. Early in the call, Karsenty suggested that the Notre Dame blaze—which is currently being investigated as an accident—was a terrorist attack.
“It’s like a 9/11, a French 9/11,” Karsenty declared. “It’s a big shock. This church was there for more than 850 years. You need to know that for the past years, we’ve had churches desecrated each and every week all over France. Of course, you will hear the story of the politically—the political correctness, which will tell you it’s probably an accident.”
Smith interrupted, informing Karsenty, who was once convicted of defamation for accusing a French media outlet of staging a Palestinian boy’s death, that he would not allow such speculation on air. Smith noted that if his guest had any concrete information, however, “we would love to hear it.”
Karsenty, meanwhile, continued to try to raise the possibility—without evidence—that the fire was intentional, prompting Smith to cut off the interview for good.
“No, sir, we’re not doing that here, not now, not on my watch,” Smith exclaimed. “The man on the phone with us has absolutely no information of any kind about the origin of this fire and neither do I.”
The Fox News anchor concluded: “The fire investigators will at some point come to a determination about what caused this and conspiracy theories about anything are worthless and in many cases counterproductive and injurious to society. And those who entertain them are not acting in the best interests of the people of this planet.”
Several hours later, Cavuto had a similar experience with Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who immediately raised the notion that this inferno was tied to other church burnings.
“Well, Neil, if it is an accident, it’s a monumental tragedy,” Donohoe said. “But forgive me for being suspicious.”
He added: “Just last month, a 17th-century church was set on fire in Paris. We have seen Tabernacles knocked down, crosses have been torn down, statues have been smashed.”
Cavuto went on to request that Donohue avoid bringing up his suspicions as no connections have been made by officials. The Catholic League leader, however, was unable to help himself, eventually asserting: “I’m sorry, when I find out that the Eucharist is being destroyed and excrement is being smeared on crosses, this is what’s going on now.”
The Fox News anchor interjected, letting Donohue that while he appreciates his time, “we cannot make conjectures about this.” Cavuto then dropped the call.
“I do want to let people know, and again we’re not trying to be rude to our guests here, there is so much we do not know about what happened here,” Cavuto concluded.
“We do know four hours ago, something started here. There are incidents that have been raised against the Catholic Church on popular tourist sites in and around Paris, no stranger to attacks, but another leap to take views like that when we don’t know.”