In Unusual Move, Fox News Condemns Jeanine Pirro’s Remarks on Muslim Legislator

In an unusual reproach, Fox News criticized one of its star personalities, Jeanine Pirro, after the host questioned if a Muslim lawmaker’s religious beliefs undermined her loyalty to the United States.

Ms. Pirro, the prosecutor turned politician turned TV host who is close to President Trump, had attacked Representative Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democrat, in the opening remarks of her weekend show, “Justice With Judge Jeanine.”

“Think about it: Omar wears a hijab,” Ms. Pirro said. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Shariah law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”

Her comments were widely condemned as prejudiced, including by a Fox News producer, Hufsa Kamal, who wrote to Ms. Pirro on Twitter: “can you stop spreading this false narrative that somehow Muslims hate America or women who wear a hijab aren’t American enough? You have Muslims working at the same network you do, including myself.”

Fox News responded on Sunday, about 24 hours after Ms. Pirro’s show was aired. “We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Representative Ilhan Omar. They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly,” the network said in a statement.

Ms. Pirro, whose fiery monologues have helped her show’s ratings, sounded less contrite. “I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Representative Omar un-American,” she wrote in a separate statement. “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.” Ms. Omar caused an uproar in Washington recently after making remarks in Congress that were attacked as anti-Semitic, leading the House to pass a resolution last week condemning intolerance.

Fox News has long grappled with fallout from incendiary remarks by its commentators — in 2017, Ms. Pirro was criticizing for saying that prosecutors investigating Mr. Trump “need to be taken out in cuffs.” Another host, Laura Ingraham, lost advertisers after she mocked students who survived the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, and after she referred to American facilities holding immigrant children as “essentially summer camps.”

Still, the network has faced unusually sharp scrutiny over the past week, starting with an article in The New Yorker that chronicled the close-knit relationship between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Fox News personnel. One network alumnus in the White House, the deputy chief of staff Bill Shine, resigned from his position on Friday after a brief, bumpy tenure.

Late Sunday, another Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, came under fire for remarks about women and underage marriage that he made about a decade ago on a shock-jock radio program. His comments were exhumed by Media Matters for America, a left-wing advocacy group that closely follows Fox News.

In excerpts published by Media Matters, Mr. Carlson, calling into the “Bubba the Love Sponge” show, mused in 2006 that “arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her.” He also used lewd language to describe Alexis Stewart, the daughter of Martha Stewart, and said, “I just wanted to give her the spanking she so desperately needs.”

Mr. Carlson, a provocateur who enjoys flouting notions of political correctness, has been called out for misogynist comments before. In 2015, he defended his brother after an email exchange showed his brother making deeply sexist remarks about a female aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

In a statement, Mr. Carlson did not apologize for his “Bubba” comments.

“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago,” Mr. Carlson wrote. “Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”

Fox News is not the only cable news network that has had to grapple with a star anchor’s troubling past remarks.

Joy-Ann Reid, the MSNBC host, apologized last year after revelations that she had published numerous homophobic posts and jokes on a blog that is now defunct. She also claimed without evidence that the homophobic remarks had been inserted by hackers intent on harming her reputation. MSNBC did not discipline Ms. Reid.


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