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Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network have hosted several guests who have furthered conspiracy theories behind the bombs that were sent to prominent party politicians and the CNN news network, which was forced to evacuate from its Time Warner Center office building on Wednesday morning.
The word “false flag” was first used on Fox News at 12:04 p.m. on Wednesday, less than two hours after CNN employees were forced to evacuate. The term was used by a news reporter, chief intelligence reporter Catherine Herridge, who said, “We sometimes have events … incidents where it’s sort of a false flag, if you will. It doesn’t actually turn into something.”
But, the theory has mostly been advanced by the network’s guests. Former FBI special agent Chad Jenkins has made the claim twice, on Fox & Friends First on Thursday morning and on top-rated Fox & Friends on Friday morning.
“We really have two primary [options],” Jenkins said on Friday. “One, we have the worst right-wing bomb-maker in history. Or, we have a false flag operation where it’s a left-wing type of operation to create hysteria and to play on the hearts and minds of those who would be independents or undecideds come the midterms.” A day earlier, he said, “We cannot rule out that it’s a false flag operation as well, and while that still would be politically motivated, it would make it appear it was the opposition when in fact it’s not.”
On Fox & Friends on Thursday, former NYPD detective Vincent Guastamacchia said, “I really think that the Left feels they’re losing on many levels and I feel they’re planting these devices just to play the role of the victim.” (Co-host Steve Doocy pushed back, saying it’s “too early” to advance such “conspiracy theories.”)
On Wednesday evening, several hours after CNN’s office was evacuated, former FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald went on anchor Martha MacCallum’s show and floated the possibility that “some Democrat, low-level person, I’m not suggesting anyone on the top, but who just decided, you know what, I’m going to put this out, because two weeks before a major election, who’s going to look like the bad guy here? The Republicans.” In response, MacCallum said, “fascinating.”
Fox talent have also floated the theory. On Thursday morning, Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs tweeted, “Fake News–Fake Bombs. Who could possible benefit by so much fakery?” before deleting the tweet.
Geraldo Rivera appeared on Fox Business on Wednesday night and called the bomb threats “an elaborate hoax.” He said, “I believe that those bombs were never intended to explode. I think those bombs were intended to further divide the American people.” (Rivera clarified himself on Friday, after a Florida man was arrested in connection with the threats. “Never mind; outsmarted myself in conjuring false flag operation designed to hurt @realDonaldTrump & #GOP,” he wrote.)
The guests and hosts who have advanced the false flag theory have a prominent supporter in President Trump, who suggested in a tweet on Friday that the threats were a campaign ploy. “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics,” he wrote. “Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”
While the conspiracy theory has taken root most prominently on Fox News, the network is not alone. On Thursday night, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said it was unlikely but “possible” that the threats were a false flag, and said, “We shouldn’t just dismiss the black flag theory only because we don’t want investigators to dismiss it.” Also on Thursday, former FBI agent Ray Lopez said on CNN that it “could be a false flag.” On MSNBC, contributor John Heilemann said “we can’t rule out anything.”
And one Fox News employee, left-leaning contributor Juan Williams, lashed out at those putting the blame on Democrats. “All of this talk of false flag actions and incitements to like the Pizzagate shooting, you think, ‘What is going on?” he said on Thursday night. “And, why is it that we as Americans can’t come together, Right and Left?”
Spokespeople for Fox News and Fox Business have not yet responded to a request for comment.
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