NEW YORK – It was Dec. 8, the day after the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Fox News anchors rushed to compare the burning of a 50-foot Christmas tree decorated with red, white, and blue ornaments outside their headquarters “an act of war on Christmas.”
Police do not believe that the incident is politically motivated.
Craig Tamanaha, 49, who is homeless and believed to be mentally ill, allegedly climbed the “All-American” tree located in Fox Square in midtown Manhattan and lit it on fire. He was arrested as he ran away from the fire. “I didn’t do it!” he yelled to paparazzi when he left the jail.
He was charged with arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass, and then released without bail. Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bayley said at the arraignment that Tamanaha was “not charged with a bail-eligible offense.”
Judge Marisol Martinez Alonso granted him a supervised release at the request of prosecutors.
A replacement tree was put in place the following day. Rev. Jacques DeGraff, a frequent Fox commentator, declared at the lighting of the new tree, “I’m here because these colors do not run! Eighty years ago this week, they tried to extinguish the darkness (sic) in a place called Pearl Harbor.
“We didn’t fold then, and we will not fold now because we have come this far by faith!”
There were no injuries or deaths related to the Fox News Square tree fire, while the bombing of Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.
“We will not let this deliberate and brazen act of cowardice deter us,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement.
Brian Kilmeade, a top Fox News personality, decried the fact that Tamanaha was released and suggested on Dec. 9 that the attack on the Christmas tree could have been a hate crime.
“The judge could have found a way to keep him locked up if he felt he was a threat to society,” Kilmeade commented during the network’s morning show on Thursday. “Note to judge: He’s a threat to society.”
Police have said Tamanaha had a previous criminal record.