With Fox News under fire this week over controversial comments made by two of its biggest stars, Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson, host Jesse Watters took the opportunity on Monday night to vilify CNN instead—by resorting to an old smear to condemn the network for itself supposedly smearing “anonymous people” and “minors.”
During a Fox News panel discussion on Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann planning a high-dollar lawsuit against CNN, Watters falsely claimed CNN had published the personal information of a Reddit user who created an anti-CNN meme President Trump later tweeted out, prompting a CNN reporter to call on Watters to issue a correction.
With Sandmann’s attorney L. Lin Wood telling Fox News over the weekend that he was going to sue CNN, possibly for a higher figure than the $250 million Sandmann is already seeking from The Washington Post, Watters claimed on Monday’s broadcast of The Five that the network tends to “go after the little guy.”
“I’ve made a few gaffes in my career,” the conservative commentator declared. “CNN points fingers and laugh and they mock but at least I’m not responsible for a quarter of a billion dollar lawsuit. By smearing a minor. You are, not me.”
After co-host Greg Gutfeld brought up a CNN report on a Trump supporter who ran a Facebook page unwittingly co-opted by Russia during the election as proof of CNN’s nefarious methods, Watters reacted by claiming the network goes after “anonymous people.”
“They unmask random people,” Watters exclaimed. “Remember the guy who did the funny video on YouTube of the body slam. They put out his personal information. They go after minors. That’s who they’re really going after. That’s bullying. And they always call out the bullies. They are the bullies.”
Watters’ claim, however, was quickly disputed by the CNN reporter who dove into that particular story, who also noted on Monday that this particular smear had resulted in death threats to him and his family.
The claim revived by Watters on Monday stemmed from July 2017, when Trump tweeted out a video that showed him at 2007’s Wrestlemania attacking a person with a CNN logo as a head. Two days later, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski wrote an article on the origins of the meme, tracing it back to an anonymous Reddit user.
The story, meanwhile, took on a life of its own as conservatives and other reporters quickly accused CNN of blackmailing the meme creator, seizing on language in the original article that had been written by a CNN executive to explain why they weren’t publishing the name of the user. The executive said the network had refrained from publishing his 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.”
But the statement went on to note that “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” After the blackmail narrative took hold, Kaczynski publicly noted that the Reddit user told him that he did not feel “threatened in any way” and the network issued a statement saying the person was not blackmailed or coerced. Gizmodo also published a breakdown explaining how management interference led to the inartful language being used in the piece that led to the backlash.
Watters, meanwhile, didn’t even get the smear right. In this instance, he seems to believe that CNN actually published the person’s personal info, rather than stick with the narrative that they blackmailed the user, which is what colleague Tucker Carlson did late last year when he said CNN “threatened to expose his identity and ruin his life if they were ever criticized by him again.”