Fox News has been suspended its legal affairs commentator Andrew Napolitano after his uncorroborated allegation that former President Barack Obama used the U.K.’s spying operation to monitor President Donald Trump provoked an international incident.
Napolitano’s claim, which he first made a week ago on an episode of “Fox & Friends,” was quickly picked up and repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and later the president himself.
Multiple high-level U.S. and British intelligence officials have flatly denied the accusation. The president, who has access to any top-secret document that he wishes to obtain, has offered no evidence to substantiate the claim. Instead, he has repeatedly referred to Napolitano.
“All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television,” Trump said at a Friday news conference. “And so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”
For their part, Napolitano’s bosses at Fox News have also denied his claims. On Friday, the network’s lead news anchor, Shepard Smith, said on air that “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”
Since that denial, Napolitano has not made an appearance on the conservative-leaning news channel.
This isn’t the first time Napolitano — a former state judge who, according to reports, made Fox News install wooden bookshelves and paneling in his studio office to resemble a judicial chamber — has made controversial statements.
A long-time supporter of fringe Republican Ron Paul, Napolitano has attracted criticism for his scathing attacks on Abraham Lincoln. (Napolitano has argued, for example, that Lincoln ought to have purchased all the slaves from their white owners rather than waging war against the secessionist South.) He has also promoted conspiracy theories about 9/11 and even claimed that voting is not a fundamental right of Americans.
As for the basis of Napolitano’s claim, it appears to be derived from secondhand information he obtained from a discredited former CIA officer named Larry C. Johnson, who has previously spread conspiracy theories that former Secretary of State John Kerry committed rape while serving in Vietnam and that Michelle Obama was once caught on tape making racist statements against white people.