It’s safe to say that the team at Fox & Friends First is having a bad day.
The early morning Fox News show had expected an interview with Arizona congressional candidate Ann Kirkpatrick, who has made headlines for running as a Democrat while expressing support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Kirkpatrick was booed over her ICE support during a debate last week.
Fox & Friends First co-hosts Rob Schmitt and Jillian Mele told viewers that Kirkpatrick would be on to discuss the backlash she was facing within her party — but the woman who then appeared onscreen was not Kirkpatrick.
“I’m actually here to speak directly to Donald Trump,” said the woman, who identified herself as Barbara L’Italien, a Massachusetts state senator.
L'Italien delivers personal message to Trump saying "we must stop abducting children… stop putting kids in cages." pic.twitter.com/OnVAdBVjJB
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 23, 2018
While L’Italien is, like Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who is currently running for Congress, she made it clear that she doesn’t support Trump, or ICE.
“I feel that what’s happening at the border is wrong,” she said, addressing Fox News viewers. “I’m a mother of four, and I believe that separating kids from their parents is illegal and inhumane.”
L’Italien went on to identify herself and continued to slam Trump’s immigration policy.
“We have to stop abducting children and ripping them from their parents’ arms,” she said, at which point Schmitt interrupted.
Schmitt and Mele both tried to discount L’Italien’s statements, but ultimately cut off the sound from her mic and ended the interview.
“That didn’t go as planned,” Schmitt said.
“Time for a break?” added Mele.
They apologized to viewers after the break, saying, “We were told Ann Kirkpatrick was going to be on the show. As you saw, somebody else stepped in front of the camera. We are working to figure out how that happened.”
Fox News has since issued a statement to Yahoo Entertainment with more details.
“This morning we invited [former] congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick to appear on Fox & Friends First through her press contact on file, Joe Katz, who accepted the invitation on Kirkpatrick’s behalf,” a spokesperson said. “Katz followed with an email confirming the segment, which also included background information and a campaign logo for Ann Kirkpatrick. During the actual segment, Barbara L’Italien appeared on camera instead of Kirkpatrick. Despite speaking to producers prior to the interview, L’Italien did not identify herself as anything other than Kirkpatrick until she was live on air, at which point we ended the interview.”
According to L’Italien’s team, a “failure of due diligence” on the part of Fox News was to blame for the booking mix-up, which is now going viral.
“They reached out to our staff believing they were reaching the Kirkpatrick office due to their own failure of due diligence,” a campaign source told ThinkProgress. “Over the process of getting the interview scheduled, they repeatedly showed very little grasp on the facts, down to whether or not Ann Kirkpatrick was still in Congress.
“Fox News is where you go when you want to talk to Donald Trump, and Barbara felt she had an obligation to her constituents to take advantage of that opportunity. But this would not have happened to an actual news station,” the campaign source said. “Fox’s lack of attention to the facts normally is a disaster for the country, it just so happened that today it was embarrassing for them.”
L’Italien, meanwhile, is seizing the opportunity to lambaste Trump’s “vile, racist policies.”
— Barbara L'Italien (@teambarbara) July 23, 2018
I've always fought for vulnerable people, and in Congress I will use every opportunity I have to make sure powerful people like @realDonaldTrump hear their voices. Here's the full statement I would've given @FoxNews if I hadn't been cut off. #ma3 #mapoli https://t.co/SAe7HoBVRV
— Barbara L'Italien (@teambarbara) July 23, 2018
Both Mele and Schmitt have addressed the drama on social media. Schmitt called the interview a “publicity stunt” in a tweet that misspelled Kirkpatrick’s first name, and he later tweeted that L’Italien was “desperate for attention.” Mele added that it was a “weak move” on L’Italien’s part.
Desperate for attention – @teambarbara pretended to be someone else to multiple people within Fox News and get on tv
— Rob Schmitt (@SchmittNYC) July 23, 2018
I was stuck in an elevator before work then I get to work and this happens. One heck of a Morning so far. By the way, kind of a weak move to do this on live TV. https://t.co/53YLozNChP
— Jillian Mele (@jillianmele) July 23, 2018
This article has been updated to include Fox News’s statement.
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