Fox News apologizes for guest's ‘disgraceful’ attack on Greta Thunberg

Fox News apologized on Monday after a guest on the network attacked 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg as a “mentally ill Swedish child.” 

The comments by Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire, who appeared on “The Story,” came hours after Thunberg delivered an emotional speech at the United Nations berating world leaders for failing to act on climate change.

But Knowles didn’t see an impassioned young activist fighting for her planet. 

Instead, he repeatedly called Thunberg “mentally ill” and claimed she was “being exploited by her parents and by the international left.” 

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Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg spoke to hundreds of climate change activists at a rally at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Friday. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC News)
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to several thousand people at a climate strike rally at Denver's Civic Center Park, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg greeted as star at Montreal march
Swedish activist and student Greta Thunberg walks off the stage after addressing the Climate Strike in Montreal, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
Climate change teen activist Greta Thunberg signs a book as she receives the key to the city from Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante after a climate strike march in Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Andrej Ivanov
Swedish environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg speaks after the climate strike march in Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Andrej Ivanov
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg, left, speaks at a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee hearing on climate change Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, center, who has called on world leaders to step up their efforts against global warming, applauds remarks by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Climate Change Task Force, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, center, marches with other young climate activists for a climate strike outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg arrives outside the United Nations to participate in a demonstration, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 in New York. She is to speak at the U.N. Climate Change Summit on Sept. 23. She'll join world leaders who will present plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, left, meets with U.N. General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garces, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 at United Nations headquarters. Thunberg is scheduled to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Climate activists hold a sit-down with peace sign gestures during a climate strike outside the United Nations, Friday Aug. 30, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg participates in a Youth Climate Strike outside the United Nations, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in New York. Thunberg is scheduled to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, sails in New York harbor aboard the Malizia II, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The zero-emissions yacht left Plymouth, England on Aug. 14. She is scheduled to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, speaks in front of a crowd of people after sailing in New York harbor aboard the Malizia II, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The zero-emissions yacht left Plymouth, England on Aug. 14. She is scheduled to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, sails into New York harbor aboard the Malizia II, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The zero-emissions yacht left Plymouth, England on Aug. 14. She is scheduled to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg sails underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on the Malizia II racing yacht in New York Harbor as she nears the completion of her trans-Atlantic crossing in order to attend a United Nations summit on climate change in New York, U.S., August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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Democratic commentator Chris Hahn, also on the show, immediately called him out for it. 

“You’re a grown man and you’re attacking a child,” he said. “Shame on you.”

Knowles replied: “I’m not. I’m attacking the left for exploiting a mentally ill child.”

But Hahn didn’t let it slide.

“Relax, skinny boy, I got this, OK? You’re attacking a child,” he said. “You’re a grown man. Have some couth.”

Knowles cut in with a verbatim repetition of his attack: “I’m not. I’m attacking the left for exploiting a mentally ill child.”

Then, Hahn let loose: 

“Maybe on your podcast you can get away and say whatever you want because nobody’s listening. You’re on national television. Be a grown-up when you’re talking about children. She’s trying to save the planet because your president doesn’t believe in climate change and kids need to take to the streets to worry about their future.”

Hahn called Knowles “despicable” and demanded that he apologize. 

Knowles instead said she has “many mental illnesses.”

He did not apologize, but Fox News did.

“The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on ‘The Story’ tonight was disgraceful,” a network spokesperson said. “We apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.”

The spokesperson added that there were “no plans to book Knowles again.”

Thunberg has Asperger syndrome, which is a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum, not a mental illness, but it has been used as a right-wing talking point to attack the young activist. 

Last month, she said that “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’” and instead called Asperger’s a “superpower,” writing: 

Advocates from within the autism community also hit back at Knowles.

“Certainly some might disagree with Ms. Thunberg on policy issues, but it is shameful to issue a derogatory statement to a youth advocate,” the Autism Society told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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