Fox News pulls Judge Napolitano over his Trump wiretap claims
Stephen Battaglio, LA Times, Mar 20 2017
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano is being kept off the air indefinitely amid the controversy over his unverified claims that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower at the behest of former Pres Obama. Fox News did not respond to inquiries about Napolitano’s status Monday. Napolitano was conspicuously missing from the network’s coverage of the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, an event in which he typically would have played a significant role. He has not been on the air since Thursday. Napolitano is not expected to be on Fox News Channel any time in the near future. On Mar 4, President Trump first tweeted the accusation that Obama ordered his “‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” Trump tweeted:
Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
The tweet has been widely discredited but last week, Napolitano heightened the controversy and caused a major embarrassment for Fox News, when he presented a scenario on several programs that backed the accusation. The former New Jersey Superior Court judge, citing unnamed sources, said that GCHQ, the British foreign surveillance agency, “most likely” provided Obama with transcripts of Trump’s recorded calls. Napolitano wrote in a column on FoxNews.com:
By bypassing all Pindosi intelligence services, Obama would have had access to what he wanted with no Obama administration fingerprints.
Sean Spicer cited Napolitano’s charge last week when asked why Trump continues to stand by his initial claim. GCHQ sharply denounced Napolitano’s allegations, saying they are “utterly ridiculous, and should be ignored.” That rebuttal did not stop Trump from citing Napolitano as a source again when he was asked about the wiretapping claims at a Friday news conference with Merkel. Trump described Napolitano as “a very talented lawyer.” He said:
You shouldn’t be talking to me! You should be talking to Fox News!
Fox News gives its analysts much more latitude than correspondents and anchors in regard to what they can say on the network, but Napolitano said on one program:
Fox News has spoken to intelligence community members who believe that surveillance did occur, and that it was done by British intelligence.
Fox News said it had done no such thing, forcing its anchors to walk back Napolitano’s statement. Shepard Smith told viewers Friday:
Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-POTUS was surveilled at any time in any way.
In a statement read on the Fox News program “MediaBuzz” on Sunday, Napolitano defended his comments. He said:
I reported what the sources told me, reported it accurately and I do believe the substance of what they told me.
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress that he had “no information” supporting Trump’s claims. D/NSA Rogers also refuted Trump’s claim. He testified that the Obama administration did not ask GCHQ to spy on Trump, nor would it ever make such a request, because it would be “expressly against the construct” of intelligence agreements between Pindostan and its vassals.