Barbara L’Italien, a Democratic state senator in Massachusetts running for a seat in Congress, was out on the campaign trail on Sunday. She was participating in a listening tour of Fitchburg when one of her staffers got a text.
The sender was someone from Fox & Friends, a notably non-liberal show. The morning show had intended to reach Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. Kirkpatrick had voiced support for the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement at a debate and was booed as a result.
Instead, the show reached L’Italien, who was unsure initially what had led Fox to her. “We weren’t absolutely certain they’d made a mistake,” she told Slate in an interview on Monday. “We didn’t know if maybe the Republican in our race was trying to hoodwink me. We didn’t know, but we thought it was worth trying to take the opportunity to stand up to Donald Trump.”
She said that she very much meant it to be an address to Trump.
“We understand that he watches the show; that is his news source,” she said. “And we wanted to see if we could break through for however long and just say in no uncertain terms that we have got to treat people with respect, that we are really engaging in really appalling behavior.”
She wasn’t sure how long she would be on the air, or even if she made it onto the air. But she wanted to take advantage of the situation as much as she could.
Fox & Friends, however, didn’t realize its mistake until L’Italien appeared on the show Monday morning. Fox host Jillian Mele introduced their guest: “And joining us now, that candidate: the only Democrat on stage to support ICE. Ann Kirkpatrick, thank you for joining us, we appreciate it. Tell us why you do support ICE.”
“Good morning,” L’Italien answered. “I’m actually here to speak directly to Donald Trump. I feel that what’s happening at the border is wrong. I’m a mother of four and I believe that separating kids from their parents is illegal and inhumane.”
Only then, without any pause for drama, did L’Italien introduce herself. “I’m actually Barbara L’Italien, I’m a state senator representing a large immigrant community, I’m running for congress in Massachusetts. I keep thinking about what we’re putting parents through, imagining how terrifying that must be for those families, imagining how it would feel not knowing if I’d ever see my kids again.
She continued, “We have to stop abducting children and ripping them from their parents’ arms, and stop putting kids in cages, and stop making 3-year-olds defend themselves in court.”
At this point, co-host Rob Schmitt interrupted L’Italien. “That practice has stopped at this point, Ms. Kirkpatrick, right?”
The hosts and the guests talked over one another, before L’Italien reminded them, “again, my name is Barbara L’Italien,” and continued her speech against the Trump administration.
“Yeah, OK,” Schmitt said. “Who is this? Who is this? OK.”
L’Italian was cut off, and the Fox hosts tried to shrug the incident off, saying, “That’s what happens sometimes.”
L’Italian, who later posted the entire speech she hoped to read on the segment (though she realistically knew she wouldn’t be able to get through the whole thing), said she thought the appearance had been a success. “I was pretty resolute that I was going to go on if I was able to go through and make a statement,” she said. “I wanted to be calm. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be serious, because this is a very serious issue.”
The response to her appearance, she said, has been satisfying. “Twitter has lit up. FB has lit up,” she said. “I think it’s certainly causing a commotion.”
Update, July 23, 2018 at 6:05 p.m.: Fox has responded with a statement indicating L’Italien’s staff intentionally misled the show’s producers. “This morning we invited Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick to appear on Fox & Friends First through her press contact on file, Joe Katz, who accepted the invitation on Kirkpatrick’s behalf,” Desiree Dunne, EP of FOX & Friends First, said. “Katz followed with an email confirming the segment, which also included background information and a campaign logo for Ann Kirkpatrick. During the actual segment, Barbara L’Italien appeared on camera instead of Kirkpatrick. Despite speaking to producers prior to the interview, L’Italien did not identify herself as anything other than Kirkpatrick until she was live on air, at which point we ended the interview.”