Fox News Rushes to Embrace Harrison Butker’s ‘Quite Tender’ Speech

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images and Reuters
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images and Reuters

Fox News, the right-wing network that helped lead the charge against Colin Kaepernick and told NBA stars voicing their political opinions to “shut up and dribble,” is now mounting a full-throated defense of Harrison Butker amid growing backlash to the NFL star’s controversial commencement speech.

“I thought his message was quite tender,” Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer said of the Kansas City Chief kicker’s address.

The message Butker delivered during his 20-minute speech before the graduating class of Benedictine College, a tiny private Catholic school, quickly sparked intense criticism when he said women had been told “diabolical lies” about pursuing careers while suggesting they’d find more fulfillment as homemakers.

It wasn’t just the conservative Catholic “tradwife fantasy” that Butker, whose mother is an accomplished medical physicist, painted during his speech that has come under fire. The 28-year-old Super Bowl champ is also taking heat for his overtly far-right stances on transgender rights, President Joe Biden’s faith, abortion, IVF treatment, COVID policies and DEI initiatives, just to name a few. Taking a swipe at the LGBTQ community, for instance, Butker told graduates to have Catholic pride and “not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it.”

Predictably, while Butker’s far-right rant has led to calls for the Chiefs to release him amid liberal outrage, it has also resulted in conservatives embracing him as a folk hero. His jersey sales have skyrocketed and a number of prominent right-wing personalities have expressed public support for him. Additionally, the Missouri attorney general has accused Kansas City of “doxxing” Butker and threatened to take legal action after the city’s official social media tweeted a “reminder” that the kicker did not live in Kansas City but rather a suburb.

With the league backing away from Butker’s conservative religious tirade, noting he “gave a speech in his personal capacity” and his “views are not those of the NFL as an organization,” Fox News hosts and pundits—many of whom are open about their Catholic and Christian faith—rallied to the player’s defense.

During Wednesday night’s broadcast of The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham—who notoriously told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” in 2018 and keep his political remarks to himself—groused that the media was attacking Butker over his speech.

“Well, he is standing up for men being fathers and women being mothers. That’s the most controversial thing you can say today,” Ingraham, who routinely promotes her conservative Catholic beliefs, declared.

Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo, who was absent from the network’s airwaves for weeks after making racially stereotypical comments about African Americans, responded by saying “shame on those who are trying to write” Butker out of the public conversation over his comments. Besides his Fox News punditry, Arroyo is a news host on the Catholic cable channel EWTN.

“Maybe they can get Colin Kaepernick to start kicking for the Kansas City Chiefs,” Ingraham snarked.

Ingraham’s defense of Butker was more pronounced the following evening. During a lengthy segment that also featured Arroyo and Clay Travis, the founder of right-wing sports site Outkick (now owned by Fox), Ingraham praised the kicker and commended his bravery for delivering the politically charged speech.

“At a time, though, when woke secularists dominate media, corporate America, Hollywood, and most universities, being a public witness to your Christian faith? Now that takes courage, because speaking out may actually mean that you lose everything, everything you have worked for,” she exclaimed.

At the same time, she asserted that Butker was getting unfairly maligned by progressives and mainstream media over his address, insisting that criticism that the speech was misogynistic and anti-woman was in bad faith.

“He wasn’t saying that women should stay at home or women should never be doctors or lawyers or whatever they want to be or own their own businesses,” she stated. “He said that one of the most important titles of all is... homemaker. Well, because home matters.”

The full court pro-Butker press from Fox, however, really kicked into gear on Friday morning.

Claiming that the All-Pro kicker wasn’t “pushing his beliefs on to the masses” in his speech, Outkick host Charly Arnolt said that those criticizing his comments “definitely missed the point.” Simultaneously, she also noted that his message should reach a much wider audience.

“I think what he says holds true in a lot of cases. These moral lessons need to be pushed more upon our youth because I think a lot of them have lost their way,” she proclaimed on Friday’s broadcast of Fox & Friends First.

The conservative cable giant’s flagship morning show continued the defense of Butker. Fox & Friends co-host Lawrence Jones, for example, grumbled about the NFL appearing to not have the kicker’s back. “It seems like they want to be woke when it’s convenient for the overall narrative,” he stated.

In a stroke of serendipity, Fox & Friends also happened to have the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt scheduled to appear on the show to promote a Texas church. While she couldn’t speak for the team’s position on Butker’s speech, she expressed her personal approval. (The Chiefs have yet to comment on his remarks.)

“I can only speak from my own experience, which is I’ve had the most incredible mom who had the ability to stay home and be with us as kids growing up. And I understand that there are many women out there who can't make that decision. But for me and my life, I know it was really formative and in shaping me and my siblings into who we are,” Gracie Hunt said, adding: “I really respect Harrison and his Christian faith and what he's accomplished on and off the field.”

During an America’s Newsroom panel discussion, Fox Business host Taylor Riggs complained that all of Butker’s remarks “are being taken out of context” and that he was mostly just trying to express his admiration for his wife Isabelle. “None of that was saying you aren’t allowed to work outside the home,” she continued.

“I thought his message was quite tender, actually,” Hemmer reacted. “I bet his wife was pretty proud to hear that!”

Appearing on The Faulkner Focus, Travis—who has previously said it is “bad business to alienate any consumers with politics”—said that nothing Butker said was even “remotely controversial” before applauding his speech in full.

“He is speaking the truth; a lot of men are failing, and a lot of women are failing and not coming together and having as many kids as we have in the past. As a parent, that’s the way I took his speech,” the conservative pundit added, prompting anchor Harris Faulkner to let out an “amen.”

The network’s midday roundtable show Outnumbered, meanwhile, devoted its A-block to Butker’s speech. And the five-person, overwhelmingly conservative panel all took turns gushing over his address while taking shots at the kicker’s critics.

Calling the speech “absolutely spot on,” Trump White House flack-turned-Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany said she could relate to what Butker was saying before heaping praise on his remarks.

“I was blown away,” she cheered. “This was the best graduation speech I’ve ever heard in my entire life!”

While others around the couch called Butker’s speech “brave” and even “counterculture,” Faulkner took aim at the NFL for being dishonest about their position on Butker’s address because of… Damar Hamlin?

“The NFL is not being genuous (sic), They’re ingenuous (sic),” she said. “In fact, they’re lying when they say it doesn’t meet their standards or that it violates their whatever they said. Damar Hamlin nearly died on the field!”

Faulkner continued: “Everybody was kneeling and praying! In fact, ESPN anchors were saying ‘my gosh’ and everybody across the country and there were videos of news anchors and people all over praying for Damar Hamlin. I didn’t see the NFL put out a statement then about how it doesn’t fit whatever their policies are!”

Grumbling that the league was being “disingenuous” over their stance on religion, Faulkner concluded that the NFL was “just jealous because they didn’t come up” with Butker’s speech.

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