“So, a picture of Bruce Reinhart, this is the judge in charge of the, of the ah... of the ah, as you know of the warrant. And we’ll see if he’s going to release it next. He likes Oreos and whiskey,” Kilmeade said during his handover to 9pm Fox host Sean Hannity.
Hannity replies: “I think that’s actually a picture of Jeffrey Epstein with somebody putting [the judge’s] head on there. I’m just guessing, I don’t know.”
Kilmeade then says: “It might be his plane, who knows?”
The original image, which does feature Epstein, was released by federal prosecutors during Maxwell’s child sex-trafficking trial late last year.
The judge had been crudely photoshopped onto the image holding Oreos and a bottle of whiskey. It was credited to the Twitter account @whatimemetosay, which describes itself as a “digital art creator”.
Commentators quickly condemned the rightwing network on social media for airing the edited photo.
Democratic activist Ron Filipkowski said: “This is Fox, and this is Kilmeade. (The judge) should sue, because s*** like this needs to cost them.”
Former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh wrote: “Hey Kilmeade, why did you lie to your audience like this?”
Denver Riggleman, a former lawmaker who consulted with the January 6 committee, tweeted: “Kilmeade should be fired—or at the least suspended. Along with whatever staff member ‘found’ the photo. Should be followed by a public apology. Despicable stuff. This is supposedly a news organisation.”
On Friday afternoon, Mr Kilmeade tweeted that the meme was “pulled from Twitter and wasn’t real”.
“This depiction never took place and we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest.”
Judge Reinhart has been at the centre of a political firestorm since FBI agents executed a search warrant at Donald Trump’s private residence on Monday. He has reportedly received violent, anti-semitic threats, and his profile has been removed from US District Court Southern District of Florida’s website.
According to the Miami Herald, Judge Reinhart worked at the South Florida US Attorney’s office during its investigation into Epstein during the mid-2000s.
The paper reported that he left the office on New Year’s Day in 2008 and began representing several Epstein employees in the sex trafficking case in his private practice the next day.
Judge Reinhart was made a magistrate judge in 2018.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the FBI had been seeking classified documents related to nuclear weapons in Monday’s raid.