Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity run with completely debunked claim about a reporter in the White House press corps

During the July 21 White House press conference, Al-Jazeera reporter Kimberly Halkett finished a round of questions with Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany by saying “ok, you don’t want to engage.”

Several right-wing commentators falsely claimed that Halkett called McEnany a “lying bitch.” Halkett herself immediately clarified that she did not say that, and even The White House later released a transcript of the press conference confirming Halkett did not, in fact, curse McEnany.

Ignoring established facts and the clear reality of what Halkett said, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that “we don’t know” whether Halkett did or did not use the slur in regards to McEnany but “you can kind of see both sides.”

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Citation From the July 21, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So a huge controversy broke out today over what exactly she said. Many heard a slur. Swearing. Other said no, she said something completely defensible. You can decide for yourselves, here's a shortened clip.


So, did she swear the White House press secretary? We don't know. I could kind of see both sides of that. The point is, a lot of people assumed that she did because we're living in a moment where it's entirely conceivable that a White House reporter might do that. Why would a White House reporter do that? Because creating a moment like that, almost tailor-made for social media, can transform an unknown blogger into a Twitter star in just a few minutes. 

Later that same night, Fox News host Sean Hannity addressed this manufactured controversy and said, though he gave “the benefit of the doubt” to Halkett, he would “let you decide.”

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Citation From the July 21, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): At one point it sounded like a reporter calling, well yes, the press secretary "a lying" and then the b-word. Others heard the reporter say she didn't want to engage. Okay. I literally did my own poll of my staff. They say it's 50/50. But we learned earlier, might be a history of using that word. But we give the benefit of the doubt, we'll let you decide. 


Alright, as I said, my staff, formal poll, 50/50. So I give the benefit of the doubt. Remember, this show was the show that doesn't rush to judgment. We believe in due process. We stand strongly against boycotts that silent voices that we disagree with. We never call for anybody's firing. We let people decide. And while it's not totally clear what reporter uttered -- what was uttered under the breath, it's obvious that these briefings are incredibly tense, always combative. And at the very end of the presser, one reporter even screaming at the press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, to wear a mask.  

A similar approach happened at The New York Post, which ran a story wondering what was said even though the story noted that the Post's own reporter “seated in front of Halkett at the morning press briefing, heard her say McEnany didn’t want to engage and did not hear her curse.”

This fake controversy swamped Twitter (and now Fox News) immediately after a report that a Republican member of the House used the same slur in regards to frequent Fox News target Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Neither Carlson nor Hannity found time to mention that report on their shows.