Fox News is no stranger to controversy. Over the past few years, the network has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, with many of its top-level executives and anchors being dramatically fired.
In addition, the network has been criticized for years for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for inaccurate reporting, controversial comments, or the accidental broadcast of graphic material.
Here are some of the biggest scandals in the history of Fox News, leading up to network’s No. 1 biggest controversy of all time.
15. Contributor jokes that she wants someone to ‘knock off’ Barack Obama
When it comes to comments you don’t want to make on the news, wishing death upon a politician would be pretty high up on the list.
Yet that’s exactly what Fox News contributor Liz Trotta did on the air in May 2008 after mixing up Barack Obama and Osama Bin Laden. “And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama — uh, Obama,” she said. “Well, both, if we could.”
Trotta subsequently apologized for wishing death upon the Democratic candidate. “I am so sorry about what happened yesterday and the lame attempt at humor,” she said on the air the next day.
A petition calling for her firing racked up thousands of signatures, but she remained with the network.
Next: Fox News broadcast this explicit footage by accident.
14. Fox accidentally broadcasts a live suicide
In 2012, Fox News aired a car chase live and accidentally broadcast footage of the suspect committing suicide. During the broadcast, Shepard Smith yelled at the producers to cut the footage, but they did not do so in time, and so video of the suspect shooting himself in the head went out live on the air.
After a break, Smith apologized profusely for this mistake. This subsequently sparked a lawsuit, which claimed that the broadcast left the perpetrator’s son “severely traumatized.” An Arizona judge ultimately threw this lawsuit out.
Next: This Fox News host was called out for deceptive editing.
13. Sean Hannity deceptively edits an Obama speech
In 2010, Sean Hannity said on his show that Obama had a “rare moment of honesty” when he admitted in a speech that he was going to raise taxes. Hannity showed a clip of Obama saying, “Taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody.” Hannity then said that Obama will “make sure that that happens.”
But Hannity had edited the clip and completely changed the context. What Obama had actually said was, “Under the tax plan passed by the last administration, taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody.”
Hannity was called out for this deceptive editing, including by Howard Kurtz, who would go on to host a show on Fox News all about the media being deceptive.
Next: This comment made on Fox News was so crazy, the prime minister of the United Kingdom weighed in on it.
12. Commentator says Birmingham is a Muslim-only city
In January 2015, Steve Emerson said on Fox News that there are places in the United Kingdom where non-Muslims can’t go, including Birmingham. He said, “There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”
This is, of course, not the case; the city has over one million residents and is largely Christian, according to PolitiFact. However, host Jeanine Pirro did not dispute Emerson’s statement or ask any follow-up questions.
The comment sparked outrage, and it received so much attention that Prime Minister David Cameron actually weighed in, saying, “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.” Emerson apologized for the remarks, saying they were inexcusable.
Next: This controversy caused a number of advertisers to pull out of a Fox News show.
11. Hannity appears to defend Roy Moore
During the 2017 Alabama Senate race, the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, was accused of sexual assault, including by women who were 14 and 16 years old at the time. On his radio show, Sean Hannity suggested that the women were lying. He also appeared to defend Roy Moore’s sexual encounter with a 14-year-old, saying it was consensual.
Hannity subsequently apologized, saying he was “not totally clear earlier today.” He said that when he mounted the “consensual” defense, he was talking about the encounters with the women who were 17 and 18 years old. But Hannity then interviewed Moore, and many people criticized him for going too easy.
Several advertisers, including Keurig, decided to pull their ads from Hannity’s Fox News show as a result of this Moore coverage. In protest, Hannity’s fans posted videos online of them throwing their Keurigs out the window.
Next: This Fox News host had something pretty shocking to say about Barack and Michelle Obama.
10. Anchor calls a fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama a ‘terrorist fist jab’
Before taking the stage to accept the nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Obama bumped fists with his wife. On Fox, anchor E.D. Hill introduced a segment about this by asking, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.”
This was a tease of an upcoming segment, but in the segment itself, nobody elaborated on the “terrorist fist jab” comment. Hill apologized the next day, saying that she was just describing a way that the fist bump had been characterized by other members of the media.
A week later, Hill’s entire show was canceled. A few months later, her contract expired, and Fox did not renew it.
Next: This Fox News consultant was found to be lying.
9. A military consultant lied about his experience
This old-school Fox controversy dates back to 2002; The New York Times published an article in April of that year titled “At Fox News, the Colonel Who Wasn’t.”
This article revealed that Joseph A. Cafasso, a Fox News military consultant, had actually lied about his background. According to The Times, he claimed that he had “won the Silver Star for bravery, served in Vietnam and was part of the secret, failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980.”
But actually, The Times reported that the extent of his military experience was 44 days of boot camp in New Jersey. Cafasso left Fox a few weeks before The Times’ article, and he said he was the victim of “political assassination.”
Next: This comment made 80 advertisers ask for their commercials to be removed from a host’s show.
8. Glenn Beck calls Obama a racist
In 2009, Fox News host Glenn Beck shocked a lot of people when he claimed that Obama is a “racist” and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”
These comments were controversial enough that a petition calling for his firing garnered 285,000 signatures, according to HuffPost. Ultimately, 80 advertisers asked for Fox to remove their commercials from Beck’s show.
Beck himself would later suggest that the comments were inelegant, though he did not fully retract them. “I don’t want to retract — I want to amend,” he said. “I think it’s much more of a theological question … Read his own books, he writes about the white culture and how he struggled with it, etc., etc.”
Next: The fact that this conspiracy theory had been debunked did not prevent a Fox host from pushing it.
7. Hannity pushes conspiracy theory about Seth Rich
In 2017, Hannity devoted hours of his show to pushing an unfounded conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer, was murdered for leaking DNC emails to Wikileaks.
He especially focused on a Fox News report that Rich had leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks, citing a private investigator, Rod Wheeler. Fox News ended up retracting the story after Wheeler said he had no evidence of this. Despite the retraction, Hannity insisted that he wasn’t retracting anything and would continue to talk about the conspiracy theory.
Eventually, though, Hannity did decide to stop talking about it, saying that it was out of respect for Rich’s family. Later, Wheeler himself sued Fox News, alleging that a Trump-supporting reporter had made up quotes and attributed them to him in order to deflect attention away from the Russia investigation, according to NPR.
Next: Over a dozen Fox News employees sued the network for this reason.
6. Over a dozen employees sue Fox for racial discrimination
In April 2017, 13 current and former Fox News employees sued the network, alleging racial discrimination. One of the plaintiffs was Kelly Wright, a black anchor who alleged that he was “effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ — the racist caricature of a Black entertainer,” according to CNN.
Wright made a number of allegations against co-president Bill Shine, saying that, in one instance, he wasn’t able to get a positive story about the African-American community on The O’Reilly Factor because Shine said it “showed blacks in ‘too positive’ a light.”
Other plaintiffs accused Fox’s former comptroller, Judith Slater, of making racially insensitive remarks. Fox said that it had fired Slater after learning about these accusations.
Next: This host was fired for allegedly making a racist remark.
5. Fox fires Bob Beckel for allegedly making racist comments to another employee
The Five‘s Bob Beckel caused Fox News quite a few headaches during his time working for the network. Beckel frequently cursed on the air and had to apologize for doing so, for instance. In 2015, the network fired him, saying that they “couldn’t hold The Five hostage to one man’s personal issues.”
Fox hired him back in 2017, but his return didn’t last long; four months later, Fox fired him for allegedly making a racist remark to an African-American employee who came to fix his computer.
Next: This Fox News anchor was accused of rape by a commentator.
4. Commentator Scottie Nell Hughes accuses anchor Charles Payne of rape
In July 2017, frequent Fox News guest Scottie Nell Hughes sued Fox News, alleging that anchor Charles Payne had raped her and that Fox stopped booking her because she reported the incident, according to The New York Times.
After Hughes’ allegation, Fox suspended Payne. His suspension lasted two months, after which he returned to the network.
Next: This host was fired after a scandal involving nude photos.
3. Fox fires Eric Bolling after he allegedly sends unsolicited nude photos to colleagues
Eric Bolling was a fairly prominent Fox News personality; for years, he was one of the co-hosts of The Five, and in 2017, Fox gave him a new show, Fox News Specialists. However, in August 2017, The Huffington Post reported that Bolling had sent unsolicited nude photos to two female colleagues. Bolling denied the allegations.
After an internal investigation, Fox News fired Bolling. The network also canceled his show, Fox News Specialists.
Next: Another Fox News host was fired after being accused of sexual harassment.
2. Fox fires Bill O’Reilly after a scathing report exposes years of sexual harassment settlements
There are few scandals bigger in Fox News history — or in the history of cable news — than the New York Times’ report that Fox’s biggest star had been settling sexual harassment lawsuits for years.
This revelation came in April 2017, and after the report, The O’Reilly Factor lost half of its advertisers. Amid the growing controversy and demands to fire O’Reilly, the host went on a break, and he never returned. The network’s co-president, Bill Shine, also soon resigned.
O’Reilly has continued to deny the allegations and has insisted that he was the victim of a smear job.
Next: This bombshell completely changed Fox News forever.
1. Gretchen Carlson accuses Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, and Ailes resigns
Bill O’Reilly’s firing was a big deal, to be sure. But an even more significant bombshell occurred when the network’s CEO, Roger Ailes, resigned for similar reasons.
In July 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, alleging that Ailes fired her for refusing his sexual advances. Ailes denied this, but then New York Magazine reported that Megyn Kelly had accused Ailes of sexual harassment as well.
A few weeks after the Carlson lawsuit, Ailes resigned from Fox News. Since then, additional women came forward with accusations against Ailes, including Andrea Tantaros. Meanwhile, Kelly went into more details about her allegations in a book. Kelly also alleged that Fox had pressured her to defend Ailes following Carlson’s allegations, but she refused to do so.
Fox ultimately settled its lawsuit with Carlson, reportedly for $20 million.
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