In an escalation of the conservative media’s attacks on the judge who signed the search warrant for the FBI’s raid on ex-President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, Fox News on Thursday aired a photoshopped image, claiming it showed the judge hanging out with child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
Filling in as the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade promised to present another “embarrassing photo” of the judge, Bruce Reinhart during the program. The night before, Kilmeade presented a photo during the program before showing Reinhart holding a bottle of whiskey and a package of Golden Oreos.
“We showed you that photo yesterday, but that isn’t the only embarrassing photo from Judge Bruce Reinhart,” Kilmeade said on Thursday night. “You won’t believe who he’s pictured getting cozy with. We’re gonna show you that next.”
Kilmeade notably did not show viewers the first photo he was referring to.
After the break, Kilmeade unveiled the new “embarrassing photo,” which purported to show Reinhart getting his foot rubbed by Maxwell on a plane as he holds a bottle of whiskey and Golden Oreos.
“So, a picture of Bruce Reinhart,” Kilmeade commented as the doctored image flashed across the screen. “This is the judge in charge of the, as you know, warrant. And we’ll see if he’s going to release it next.”
In reality, the image was a digitally altered photo of Maxwell rubbing (now-deceased) fellow sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s foot, with Reinhart’s upper half photoshopped onto Epstein’s body.
Kilmeade gave no indication that the image was a fake, and because he hadn’t shown the real photo as a comparison, viewers who hadn’t seen (or remembered) Kilmeade sharing the whiskey and Oreos photo the night before could have easily been led to believe the Maxwell image was legit.
The only indication that the image was photoshopped was presented in the form of a faint watermark on the image, attributed to the Instagram account called “@what.i.meme.to.say” and a small label crediting the account on the upper left corner of the screen.
In fact, the altered nature of the image went unacknowledged until fellow Fox host Sean Hannity, whose show comes after Kilmeade’s, pointed it out.
“I think that’s actually a picture of Jeffrey Epstein with somebody putting [Reinhart’s] head on there,” Hannity said – before hedging: “I’m guessing. I don’t know.”
But rather than admitting that the image was doctored, Kilmeade simply joked, “It might be his plane, who knows?”
“I’ll let you determine that in the morning,” Hannity said with a laugh before moving on to his own program.
On Friday afternoon, Kilmeade finally clarified via Twitter that the photo was fake.
“Last night while subbing for Tucker Carlson, we showed you an image of Judge Bruce Reinhart w/ Ghislaine Maxwell that was sourced on screen to a meme pulled from Twitter & wasn’t real,” the Fox host tweeted. “This depiction never took place & we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest.”
Kilmeade and other Fox News hosts, including Jesse Watters, have been waging a sustained smear campaign against Reinhart ever since the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid unfolded Monday evening.
One particularly egregious point of attack, as indicated by Kilmeade’s fake Maxwell photo, has involved falsely painting Reinhart as a defense lawyer for (and/or general ally of) Epstein. In reality, Reinhart was an attorney for some of Epstein’s employees, not the infamous late sex trafficker himself.
(What’s ironic about Trump allies’ baseless Epstein smears against Reinhart is that Trump himself was friends with the sex trafficker for years and even called him a “terrific guy” in 2002.)
In addition to the attacks from conservative media, Reinhart has also been bombarded with anti-Semitic threats from far-right Trump supporters online.