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Fox News Sidelines Legal Analyst Napolitano Over Baseless Wiretapping Claims

Judge Andrew Napolitano was benched by Fox News this week after making unfounded claims that President Obama violated U.S. law and requested that British intelligence agencies spy on Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Photographer: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg

Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has been pulled off the air after claiming that President Obama asked British intelligence to wiretap Trump and his allies. The move is the latest example of the network’s willingness to break with the president to protect its credibility.

On March 4, Trump tweeted, “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” before the November election.

A week later, Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, appeared on the morning show “Fox and Friends,” claiming that unnamed sources told him that Obama asked British intelligence agencies to spy on Trump and his associates in violation of U.S. law. Napolitano repeated the claim in a column published by Fox News.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then repeated Napolitano’s claim verbatim during a press briefing on March 16. Spicer’s comments drew an immediate rebuke from the British government, which called them “utterly ridiculous.” Spicer has not repeated his claims.

Last Friday, amid growing denunciations from experts and fellow Republicans, Trump tried to blame the entire incident on Fox News, ignoring the fact that Trump made his claim before Napolitano ever rose to his defense. Appearing at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said, “All we did was quote a very talented legal mind … so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”

Fox News, for its part, could not defend Napolitano. Fox News host Shepard Smith, who has repeatedly challenged the Trump administration in recent weeks, said, “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary. 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.”

Napolitano was conspicuously absent from Fox yesterday even as the network covered numerous legal stories that would normally require his attention, including the hearings of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.