Fox News reliably airs almost all White House briefings and presidential appearances. But on Friday, the White House appeared to cross a line.
Fox News' Harris Faulkner broke away from a news briefing after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany played a video of protesters in Portland, Ore., toppling statues and yelling obscenities at police officers. The video showed a toppled statue with the words "F--- Cops" plainly visible. It also showed a protester telling police officers, "I hope someone kills your whole ... family," with an apparent profanity silenced out.
"All right, we were not expecting that video, and our management here at Fox News has decided we will pull away from that at this time," Faulkner said. "Some tough images there, a lot of things that we didn't anticipate to be shown in terms of some wording on the screen."
FCC guidelines normally prohibit profanity between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on television when "there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." Because Fox News is a cable service, it is exempt from the profanity rule, but cable news stations' internal policies routinely bar swear words. Two Fox News contributors were suspended for using profanity on air in 2015, CNN Money reported at the time.
CNN and MSNBC did not air the news briefing live.
Faulkner returned to airing the briefing once McEnany started taking questions from the press corps. At the end of the hour, Faulkner said the network had not been aware McEnany planned to show the video. Faulkner suggested she preferred to be given a heads-up for violent and profane content.
"The White House press briefing is something that is important for us to carry for you, and so a heads-up at this time with videos like that are in the middle of the day, sometimes it's helpful," Faulkner said in a somber tone.
Later Friday, Fox News said the network "was not provided with any advance warning that a video using profanity would air during this afternoon’s White House press briefing."
"Once it aired, FOX News made the decision it was inappropriate for a daytime audience and temporarily dropped out of coverage," the channel said in a statement to POLITICO.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
McEnany's briefing largely focused on the ongoing unrest in Portland and cities across the country following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minnesota police officer. President Donald Trump has decried cities for not taking a firmer approach to quelling the protests, saying he would send in federal officers to enforce order.
Officers from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Services were deployed to Portland, detaining journalists and protesters exercising their right to assembly in arrests that some have criticized as based on specious probable cause. Activists have filed lawsuits to stop the arrests, and a federal judge has ordered federal officers to not use force on journalists covering the protests.
The overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful demonstrations, often with families and elected officials joining in. But Trump has portrayed the protesters as violent anarchists, saying Thursday on Fox News that federal forces were necessary to protect federal property.
The Justice Department Friday announced charges against 18 protesters for demonstrations outside a federal courthouse in the city. A DOJ statement said "protests in downtown Portland have been followed by nightly criminal activity including assaults on law enforcement officers, destruction of property, looting, arson, and vandalism."
Trump said he would try to get federal forces in a host of cities. After weeks of tense back-and-forth with Trump, Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed this week to have federal officers assist the city on violent crime investigations, though she has expressed concern about too much interference from Washington.
"We'll go into all the cities, any of the cities," Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Thursday. "We will put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they are doing. And they are strong, they're tough, and we can solve these problems so fast."