CNN commentator Don Lemon and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly are going at each other on Twitter.
The back and forth began when Lemon said on his show Monday night he would not “insult your intelligence” by devoting too much time to a story about national security adviser Susan Rice asking to have the names of President Donald Trump’s transition team “unmasked” from intelligence reports.
Lemon said he would address the story, but said “There is no evidence that backs up the president’s original claim” of being spied on by former President Barack Obama, and that he, Lemon, would not “aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.”
O’Reilly responded Tuesday with a Facebook post chastising Lemon saying, “While some outlets have downplayed the explosive allegations against former Obama aide Susan Rice, CNN's Don Lemon went all the way and declared his show a Rice-Free Zone.”
Rice said in an interview Tuesday that she did ask that the names in an intelligence report be “unmasked,” but that in no way did she use the names of Trump associates for political purposes.
"The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, " Rice said in an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell. "That's absolutely false."
Lemon answered O’Reilly’s tweet with one of his own, referring to reports that several women have accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment and that some have received settlements from O’Reilly and Fox News. Lemon asked why O’Reilly had chosen not to cover that story.
O’Reilly did issue a statement about the sexual harassment allegations that reads, “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline. But most importantly, I'm a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children. The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”
A story from The Hill pointed out that CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, a former member of the Obama State Department, had made similar comments about the Rice story earlier in the day.
“The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false. There is nothing unusual about making these requests when serving as a senior national security official, whether Democrat or Republican,” said Sciutto. “This appears to be a story largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation.”