Fox News innocently markets its long-running morning show Fox & Friends as “the latest news, political and entertainment headlines'' alongside “a variety of topical discussions.” But such a deliberately simplistic description obscures the toxicity churning through Fox & Friends, with examples as grave as sexual harassment and white nationalism, and as simply embarrassing as a 57-year-old host getting short with a sixth-grader who expressed mild disapproval of former President Donald Trump.
Amid Fox’s upfront presentations to advertisers, 44 activist groups and nonprofits, including Media Matters, signed an open letter to ad buyers imploring them to drop Fox after the network’s most destructive year of programming yet. Fox & Friends, as one of Fox’s longest-running and most influential shows in its role as near-daily viewing for former President Trump, trafficks in nearly all the same disgusting commentary that has made Fox News prime time so reliably toxic to advertisers -- and Fox News reportedly knows it. In 2019, a Fox insider reportedly told Vanity Fair that “executives are very worried Fox & Friends will be next” to suffer an advertiser boycott.
Although Fox & Friends did not face a concerted boycott push after that disclosure, it was not for lack of outrageous material. Echoing Tucker Carlson, Fox & Friends insists that undocumented immigration is an “invasion” of the United States, defending and continuing to use that racist rhetoric even after it’s accrued a gruesome body count. The hosts of Fox & Friends have also escaped responsibility for casually demeaning their colleagues and political allies on-air with bigoted language, and even for reported sexual harassment. Fox & Friends reliably generates embarrassments and controversies that have branded the show, and the network which airs it, as a cesspool of ignorant and malicious misinformation. Any advertisers that support this show risk earning a similar reputation.
Fox & Friends and white supremacists agree: Immigrants are invading America to change the country
Tucker Carlson drew widespread condemnation for his recent endorsement of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which falsely holds that a wave of “Third World” invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your environment, and people should do something about it. Carlson has openly espoused these white nationalist themes on Fox airwaves for years, much like Fox & Friends. In little more than seven months in 2019, Fox News racked up over 70 references to a migrant “invasion” of the United States, including 24 references on Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, and Fox & Friends Weekend.
Carlson and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade were among the network personalities to most frequently use this false and incendiary rhetoric. On one occasion, complaining about border crossings, Kilmeade told a panel of congressional military combat veterans, “You guys know what it’s like. This is a walking invasion. Where’s the action?”
About two months after Kilmeade’s question, as Fox & Friends blared warnings about the “flat-out invasion” of Central American migrants, a white supremacist killed 23 people in an El Paso Walmart, attempting to combat what he called “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” in which they “take control of the local and state government” and change “policy to better suit their needs.” In a segment about the massacre three days later, Kilmeade defended his own rhetoric: “If you use the term ‘it’s an invasion,’ that’s not anti-Hispanic. It’s a fact.”
True to that defense, invasion rhetoric has continued on Fox & Friends.
Echoing Carlson’s pre-massacre claim that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country,” just weeks after the El Paso mass shooting, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt wondered if “a lot of illegal immigrants” coming to Texas would “get the right to vote eventually, then they could vote for the Democrats” and turn the reliably red state blue. Recently, Fox & Friends regular guest Newt Gingrich suggested that President Joe Biden’s “goal was to have the maximum number of illegal people in the United States,” with co-host Steve Doocy agreeing that migration is “working exactly as that is planned” for Democrats’ political gain. Warnings of an invasion have picked back up in recent weeks, as when Kilmeade declared on April 27 that “millions are coming across our border. It’s changing the population.”
Years after the El Paso massacre, Fox & Friends is still rhetorically fighting the shooter’s battle against an imaginary “Hispanic invasion.”
Fox & Friends hosts casually demean their own colleagues and allies with harassment and bigotry
Former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson changed news media forever with her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Fox News founder Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox as a result of her lawsuit and multiple other women coming forward about Ailes’ abuse. Less remembered is that the landmark lawsuit also revealed pervasive sexual harassment from Doocy, Carlson’s former on-air colleague for years. The lawsuit discussed an earlier complaint against Doocy, dismissed by Ailes, that he “created a hostile work environment” and “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment”:
Carlson complained to her supervisor that one of her co-hosts on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy, created a hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way, including by putting his hand on her and pulling down her arm to shush her during a live telecast.
Doocy engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson, including, but not limited to, mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show, and generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blonde female prop.
After learning of Carlson’s complaints, Ailes responded by calling Carlson a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her that she needed to learn to “get along with the boys.”
After Carlson’s lawsuit, one former Fox & Friends employee told Politico that “everyone on staff knew about or saw Doocy make inappropriate comments, but most people just rolled their eyes at it.” Although Fox claimed to take the complaints against Doocy seriously, he seems to have faced zero consequences: The internal investigation appeared to focus solely on the headline-grabbing Ailes, neither man was mentioned by name in Fox’s public apology, and Doocy remained on air through it all.
In November 2015, Fox anchor Harris Faulkner appeared on Fox & Friends with her then-eight-year-old daughter to share a peach cobbler recipe for Thanksgiving. What should have been a warm, family-friendly segment went awry when Kilmeade asked Faulkner, who is Black, if she makes Kool-Aid. Faulkner replied to the racial stereotype with a firm “no” and continued the segment, which soon went viral for both Kilmeade’s blunt racism and the reaction of Faulkner’s daughter. After people kept asking her family about the incident, Faulkner decided to talk to Kilmeade, but the Fox & Friends co-host displayed a complete inability to take any responsibility for his racist comments, let alone to offer an actual apology. In Faulkner’s own words, from a Los Angeles Times profile (emphasis added):
“I went to his office,” she said. “We sat. He said, ‘I didn’t mean anything by it. I want you to know I have no idea what it really means, blah, blah, blah.’ By the end of the conversation, I apologized. He said, ‘Why are you apologizing?’ I said, ‘Because I need to hear the words ‘I’m sorry’ right now.’ So we moved on.”
In August of 2018, Earhardt caused considerable controversy by referring to Vermont Democrat Christine Hallquist, the first openly trans major party nominee for governor, as “that transgender.” (Using “transgender” as a noun is usually considered offensive and is explicitly advised against by the Associated Press stylebook.) In a rare move for a Fox & Friends co-host facing controversy, Earhardt soon apologized. But years later, when Caitlyn Jenner announced her Republican candidacy for California governor in the recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Fox & Friends promoted her campaign with Earhardt again using “transgender” as a noun, as did Kilmeade, who also deadnamed Jenner -- all within the same show.
Fox & Friends ignites an array of embarrassing controversies that betray its total lack of standards
During a May 5 segment about in-person learning for grade school students, a sixth-grader told Kilmeade that he credited Biden’s pandemic leadership for the improving situation and doubted if former President Trump could have performed similarly. Itching to get the last word, the 57-year-old Kilmeade snapped back to the middle schooler, “Really? That's hard to believe. Because the last president was saying, ‘I want every kid back in school.’”
After the January 6 insurrection, Amazon suspended right-wing social media platform Parler from Amazon Web Services because the site was a hotbed for extremist activity, which was also common on mainstream social media platforms. But Fox & Friends once again crossed a line when weekend prime-time host Jeanine Pirro, another regular guest on the show, called Parler’s removal “akin to a Kristallnacht.” There is no comparison between Parler’s hosting issues and the violent terror of the Holocaust, of course, despite Pirro’s meek attempt to clarify which still defended her false comparison.
Last March, as COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic and the U.S. first started to impose safety restrictions to control the virus’s spread, many people said things that later turned out to be inaccurate. But Fox & Friends aired a flurry of commentary that was known to be wrong even then: Hours before the U.S. banned noncitizens’ travel from Europe, Earhardt confidently said that the pandemic was “actually the safest time to fly.” Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth boasted that “I feel like the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.” And TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, a pandemic regular on Fox & Friends, said “a lot of doctors” felt that “the worry and the panic about coronavirus is going to be worse than the actual coronavirus for them.”
Earhardt, Hegseth, and Oz could not have been more incorrect, but their belligerent commentary set the tone for Fox’s coverage to routinely misinform about the pandemic and undermine public health measures, helping to keep the United States the worldwide leader in total COVID-19 deaths to this day.
Fox News promotes Fox & Friends as a light and friendly morning show, but that portrayal ignores its many malicious overtones. Fox & Friends often pushes the same themes as Carlson’s open white nationalism, even after that racist “invasion” messaging appeared in the manifesto of a racist mass shooter. Fox & Friends personalities have belittled and harassed even their Fox colleagues and political allies on-air with no consequences from the network. And Fox & Friends platforms some of the most shockingly, offensively, and deadly ignorant commentary anywhere on television -- to say nothing of the hosts defending lie-based election “skepticism” on the eve of the insurrection or securing pardons for alleged war criminals, one of whom later admitted to the premeditated killing of an enemy prisoner for which Fox & Friends helped ensure that he would never face justice.
On all fronts, Fox & Friends is a massive liability for any advertiser. Companies should save themselves the headaches and humiliation of paying to be associated with this ticking time bomb, and drop Fox & Friends.