Fox News apologized Monday night after an on-air guest referred to Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist from Sweden, as a “mentally ill Swedish child” and repeated a conspiracy theory about her during a live appearance on “The Story.”
Michael Knowles, who hosts a podcast for The Daily Wire, was on to discuss Thunberg, who came to the U.S last week to participate in the youth climate strike and addressed the United Nations about climate change on Monday. During the segment, Knowles disparaged climate activists, saying, “if it were about science it would be led by scientists, rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child.”
Knowles also repeated a conspiracy theory that Thunberg, who is 16 years old, is being manipulated by her parents and “the international left.” After being pressed by another guest, Knowled said he wasn’t criticizing her, just the people he claims are manipulating her.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap, but in a statement first provided to The Daily Beast it said: “The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on ‘The Story’ tonight was disgraceful — we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.”
The Hollywood Reporter later said that a Fox spokesperson said Knowles won’t be asked back as a guest. The network has not yet made any public statement to that effect.
The comments were widely criticized on social media and by autism advocates. In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said: “It’s absolutely unconscionable to attack someone for their disability, especially when that person is a child. History is full of autistic people and people with other cognitive disabilities who were and are compelling, credible activists and leaders. Greta is a part of that tradition, and our community is lucky to have her. Period.”
Knowles did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap, but on Twitter he stood by his remarks and retweeted both critics and supporters.