Fox News host Neil Cavuto apologized on air on Oct. 16 after hosting a con artist on his show for years. From 2002 on, Fox favorite Wayne Simmons presented himself as a former "CIA outside paramilitary special operations officer" and "national security and terrorism expert." In reality, he was an expert in deceit.
"It has come to our attention that a frequent guest on this show might not have been who he purported to be," Cavuto said. "If it's true that all our due diligence and vetting on Mr. Simmons missed this, that's big and that's on me, and only me," he added.
Cavuto's remarks have a tinge of caution, but federal prosecutors are certain that Simmons is not who he said he is. A federal grand jury indicted Simmons on several counts of fraud and making false statements. He was never in the CIA, they revealed; he deceived the government for years.
Simmons' expertise in deceit was matched only by his finesse in fearmongering. I documented 11 lies or absurd policies Simmons claimed or proposed. In his years on Fox, Simmons:
- advocated racial profiling of people from Muslim-majority countries;
- claimed there are "at least 19 paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States";
- called for assassinating democratically elected leaders who are not U.S. allies;
- insisted American "traitors" should be executed by firing squad;
- slandered whistleblowers and investigative journalism organization WikiLeaks as "terrorists";
- warned that the U.S. media is controlled by al-Qaeda;
and more -- much more.
Now, right-wing websites are trying to cover up their ties to Simmons, who has pushed hard for an investigation into Benghazi and has constantly called on greater U.S. military involvement in numerous violent conflicts.
Although Cavuto tried to take individual responsibility for giving a platform to the putative "terror analyst," numerous other Fox anchors have hosted Simmons on their shows, including Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade, Hannity & Colmes' eponymous ringmasters, Freedom Watch's Judge Napolitano, The O’Reilly Factor's titular demagogue.
Fox says that Simmons was only a guest on its numerous programs, never a paid contributor. But when it comes to his impact on swindling the public, the damage has already been done, and the difference is ultimately insignificant.
Cavuto did the right thing by apologizing for allowing a con man to misinform its massive audience for years, but the question the public should ask itself is are there other Wayne Simmons out there, and how do they know whom they can trust? And is anyone else at Fox sorry?