Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News Channel host and former prosecutor, was absent from her usual slot in the network’s Saturday night prime-time lineup – and her most powerful viewer was not happy about it.
Fox News bumped the show a week after it publicly condemned Pirro’s on-air suggestion that Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., did not support the U.S. Constitution because she is Muslim and wears a hijab.
“Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro,” President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump accused Pirro’s critics of waging “all out campaigns” against Pirro and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was widely rebuked after decade-old racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments resurfaced last week. Both of their comments prompted some advertisers to boycott the shows.
“Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down,” Trump said in another tweet, before issuing a curiously dire warning to “Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”
In yet another post, Trump urged his 59 million followers to “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine.”
Carlson is still on his regular, weeknight schedule, but the network declined to say whether it had suspended Pirro, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a question about when her show would return.
“We’re not commenting on internal scheduling matters,” the spokeswoman said Sunday. Last week, network executives said Pirro’s comments “do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
Trump mounted his defense hours after he threatened “Saturday Night Live” and other late-night comedy shows that have made the president a frequent punchline. On Twitter, he asked whether the Federal Communications Commission and, for some reason, the Federal Election Commission should “look into” the programs for “knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.'”
For the president’s critics, Trump’s latest flurry of morning tweets again lays bare a truism of his administration’s view of the media: for those who question or mock him, a flexing of executive muscle and vague, ad hoc threats; but for his supporters, an outpouring of praise and exclusive interviews.
Pirro is one of Fox News’ highest-rated hosts and has been a zealous booster of Trump – and she has a history of rhetoric denounced as anti-Muslim. She began her last show by pointing out that Omar, who was accused of using anti-Semitic tropes, wears a hijab and asked her audience to “Think about it … ”
“Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?” Pirro said, invoking a right-wing conspiracy about a purported attempt by Muslims to take over the U.S. government and install sharia law. (In reality, sharia is a framework of Islam and describes guidelines for living an ethical Muslim life.)
Pirro later defended her statements, maintaining that she didn’t call Omar “un-American” and that her intention was to “ask a question and start a debate.”
“Of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution,” Pirro said.
But the backlash was swift and bipartisan. Hufsa Kamal, an associate producer at Fox News, accused her co-worker of “spreading this false narrative that somehow Muslims hate America.”
Some of Pirro’s advertisers also have revolted, refusing to buy time on her show going forward. That list includes the Botox manufacturer Allergan; the health technology company GreatCall; Letgo, a website for buying and selling used goods; and NerdWallet.
Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company, is also “re-evaluating” its ads on Pirro’s show.
Carlson is also losing advertising – including the pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca – but the network has continued its tacit support for him and his show, which also has high viewership. After Media Matters, a left-wing advocacy group, published audio from Carlson’s old interviews on the shock-jock radio program the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” Carlson thanked Fox News for supporting him.
“Fox News is behind us, as they have been since the very first day,” he said last week. “Toughness is a rare quality in a TV network, and we’re grateful for that.”
No stranger to unleashing controversy, Carlson dug in. After all, he has seen advertisers flee before, and it hasn’t made much of a difference to his bottom line.
“We will never bow to the mob, ever,” Carlson said on his show.
For good measure, he then added a Trumpian punctuation: “No matter what.”
The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser, Kayla Epstein and Lindsey Bever contributed to this report.