North Korea madness breaks out on ‘Fox & Friends’

A confidential assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency says that North Korea has already developed a miniaturized nuclear weapon that can fit on top of an ICBM. (The Washington Post)

Before we get to the timeline, some context: “Fox & Friends,” the notorious morning program on Fox News, has been coddling Donald Trump since at least 2011, when he started a weekly call-in to the program on Monday mornings. The co-hosts’ sycophancy toward the now-45th president covers all relevant topics, from his positions on immigration to his choice of advisers to his attacks on mainstream media outlets.

Not to mention the president’s war on leakers. Last month “Fox & Friends” was forced to correct a story that it promoted regarding fired FBI director James B. Comey’s alleged leaks — a topic that Trump has promoted on his Twitter account.

And now for the timeline.

Monday, 7:54 p.m.: “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade issues this absurd tweet:

Tuesday, 7:35 a.m.: “Fox & Friends” welcomes U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to discuss U.N. sanctions targeting the exports of the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un. The penalties stem from North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions on North Korea on Aug. 5, including a ban on exports worth over $1 billion. (UNTV)

7:39 a.m.: The “Fox & Friends” crew gets into an interesting exchange with Haley:

Co-host Steve Doocy: Ambassador, on the front page of FoxNews.com right now there is a story that apparently the intel community has picked up. Anti-ship cruise missiles were being loaded onto a patrol boat or patrol boats in North Korea. What can you tell us about that?

Haley: I can’t. I can’t talk about anything that’s classified and if that’s in the newspaper, that’s a shame.

Doocy: You have no reason to believe that’s not accurate, though?

Haley: I have no reason to comment.

Co-host Ainsley Earhardt: The fact that it shouldn’t be in the newspaper — is that another leak, I guess?

Haley: It’s one of these things — I don’t know what’s going on, but I will tell you it’s incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that. You’re not only just getting a scoop on something, you’re playing with people’s lives.

Earhardt: Yes.

Haley: And this has got to stop. Whatever the leaks are coming from, if somebody thinks they’re getting power or fame from it, all you’re doing is putting Americans in danger.

Doocy: Sure, and I understand that, but at the same time is the United States intel community saying, “Hey, Mr. Kim, we’re watching you. We just saw you put those things on the boat”?

Haley: Listen, don’t think that he’s not aware and we’re not aware of everything that’s happening at every given moment.

What a “Fox & Friends” moment. The word “newspaper” is bolded in the transcript above because Haley apparently misheard Doocy, who clearly explained that the key story was on the “front page” of FoxNews.com. The story in question is by Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson. Published on Monday, the story’s headline is “US spy satellites detect North Korea moving anti-ship cruise missiles to patrol boat.” Tomlinson writes, “It’s the first time these missiles have been deployed on this type of platform since 2014, U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region told Fox News on Monday.”

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So, yes, Ainsley Earhardt, that sounds a lot like a leak. Just the sort of leak, in fact, that the people on the news side of Fox News seek out every single day, despite the anti-leak fervor on shows such as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”

Consider the parallels between Tomlinson’s story and a piece from June 2009 under the byline of Fox Newser James Rosen. “North Korea Intends to Match U.N. Resolution With New Nuclear Test” was the headline for that piece, in which Rosen used an intel leak to break this news: “U.S. intelligence officials have warned President Obama and other senior American officials that North Korea intends to respond to the looming passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution this week — condemning the communist country for its recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests — with another nuclear test, FOX News has learned.”

That very story became the centerpiece of a massive Obama administration leak investigation that ended with a guilty plea by Stephen Kim, an expert on North Korea working at the State Department. In a search warrant affidavit, the Justice Department named Rosen, a familiar face on Fox News, as a potential “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act, the better to secure a search warrant for some of his digital communications. Back then, Fox News (appropriately) rallied around Rosen as a First Amendment warrior under siege by an oppressive Obama Justice Department.

Meanwhile! President Trump early Tuesday morning had retweeted a “Fox & Friends” tweet promoting Tomlinson’s story:

There are too many contradictions here to fit into The Post’s digital publishing system. One moment, Kilmeade is polling people about prosecuting media figures for publishing classified information, even when the Trump Justice Department has made clear it’s not going to take that approach. The next moment, Doocy is promoting Tomlinson’s leak-based scoop, while Earhardt appears to be agreeing with Haley about the perils of leaking. Then Doocy suggests that the leak to Tomlinson may have been accomplishing a strategic purpose vis-à-vis the North Korean strongman.

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Also: Via pretty good questioning by the “Fox & Friends” crew, we learn that Haley is sufficiently smart and alert to refrain from commenting on a story about intelligence regarding North Korea. At the same time, we learn that Trump is not. Not a bad day, in other words, for the worst show in television news.

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