According to a new report from Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, management at Fox News are experiencing a “Trump identity crisis” that has accelerated since allegations the president engaged in quid pro quo negotiations with the new Ukrainian president during a phone call in July 2019. Sherman reports Fox executives reprimanded host Shepard Smith for criticizing Tucker Carlson during an on-air feud that began Tuesday, after a guest on his program called Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano a “fool” for criticizing Trump’s alleged quid pro quo. Carlson responded to Smith’s critique by repeatedly questioning Smith’s honesty and calling him a partisan opinion host, “not news.” From Vanity Fair:
Inside Fox News, tensions over Trump are becoming harder to contain as a long-running cold war between the network’s news and opinion sides turns hot. Fox has often taken a nothing-to-see-here approach to Trump scandals, but impeachment is a different animal. “It’s management bedlam,” a Fox staffer told me. “This massive thing happened, and no one knows how to cover it.” The schism was evident this week as a feud erupted between afternoon anchor Shepard Smith and prime-time host Tucker Carlson. It started Tuesday when Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith on-air that Trump committed a “crime” by pressuring Ukraine’s president to get dirt on Biden. That night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a “fool” for claiming Trump broke the law. Yesterday, Smith lashed back, calling Carlson “repugnant” for not defending Napolitano on air. (Trump himself is said to turn off Fox at 3 p.m., when Shep Smith airs.) Seeking to quell the internecine strife before it carried into a third day, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace communicated to Smith this morning to stop attacking Carlson, a person briefed on the conversation said. “They said if he does it again, he’s off the air,” the source said. (Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith).