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In Astronaut Case, Where's the Usual Fox Outrage Over Crime?

Reported by Judy - February 7, 2007 -

The co-hosts of "Fox and Friends" struggled Wednesday (February 7, 2007) to display any outrage over an alleged murder attempt.

Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade consistently portrayed NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak as an object of sympathy rather than someone who belongs behind bars for her alleged attempted murder of Colleen Shipman.

The facts surrounding the case are bizarre – Nowak’s 900-mile trip, in diapers, from Houston to Orlando, where she tracked down her rival in a love triangle while wearing a wig, dark glasses, and long coat, and then sprayed her with pepper spray.

The “Fox and Friends” three-some interviewed Dr. Georgia Witkin, a psychologist and a Fox News contributor, who claimed Nowak’s infatuation with another astronaut, Bill Oefelein, might be a form of an anti-depressive. Nowak had achieved her life’s goal by going into space in July and was coming down from that high when she became infatuated with Oefelein, which flooded her brain with feel-good chemicals that Nowak craved, according to Witkin.

"I’m not saying this is an evil person," Witkin said.

And neither did any of Fox’s friends.

Carlson described Nowak as a fallen genius. Kilmeade called her a "bright star and a role model" who was "going through a major transition."

"Love makes you do weird things," said Doocy, adding her behavior was "very peculiar."

So attempting to murder someone is just "weird" or "very peculiar" in this case?

The co-hosts made Nowak the subject of their "Question of the Day," asking whether she should be out on bail, be in jail, or be in a psych ward. One caller referred to Nowak as someone with "mental problems." Another said, "I think she needs help. I feel sorry for her. She doesn’t have any priors."

"Some are speculating she just snapped," agreed Doocy, sounding supportive of a potential insanity defense by Nowak.

Later on, Fox News' John Scott, host of "Fox News Live," appeared on "Fox and Friends" to promote his show coming up in the next hour and questioned the decision to charge Nowak with attempted murder. "Is that piling on?" he asked.

Such sympathy for the alleged perpetrator of a crime is rarely seen on "Fox and Friends," where attacks on judges seeming soft on crime and attempts to use insanity or diminished responsibility defenses are more the rule.

Why the special treatment for Nowak?

Nowak's social standing seems to have exempted her from being included in the trio's concept of who commits crimes in this country. Nowak comes from the ranks of the nation's heroes -- a member of the military, a space pioneer, well-educated, middle class at least, probably suburban. Her gender may also be protecting her from the co-hosts' indignation at her alleged crime.

The typical criminals presented on "Fox and Friends" come from inner-cities, are poor, not well-educated, often male, often non-white.

Nowak is too much like the co-hosts for them to consider her a criminal. Criminals, they think, are people who look, act, and live differently from them, and that's why they believe the nation should use racial profiling to stop people who want to hurt the rest of us.

But the Nowak case is an example of why profiling on the basis of appearances, rather than behavior, doesn’t work.

People who are "good" can do bad things. And they are not necessarily crazy when they do them. And people who fit the image of "criminal" also can just "snap" over the same sorts of pressures that the "Fox and Friends" co-hosts were describing for Nowak. But they often find it harder to gain the sympathy of the trio on "Fox and Friends."