Monday, April 15, 2024

Protesters, fans turn out as ‘Fox and Friends’ broadcasts from Colonial Williamsburg

After seeing news on the internet about a Fox and Friends visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
After seeing news on the internet about a “Fox and Friends” visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

A live broadcast by “Fox and Friends” in Colonial Williamsburg attracted both protesters and supporters to the Governor’s Palace Green early Tuesday.

From 6 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, “Fox and Friends” broadcast fife & drum performances, a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson and more as part of special programming for Independence Day.

Colonial Williamsburg announced the visit on their social media accounts, including a retweet of a video from Anna Kooiman, a Fox News reporter.

After seeing news on the internet about the “Fox and Friends” visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews.

Another group of comparable size congregated in another area of the Palace Green, watching crews film the live broadcast, some wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.

‘Personally affronted’

When Williamsburg resident Cecile Glendening woke up Tuesday and learned “Fox and Friends” was in town, she immediately got out her outdoor deck paint and poster paper.

Glendening had never attended a protest before Tuesday, but she said she felt that “Fox and Friends” broadcasting from Colonial Williamsburg was the last straw.

Glendening, a William & Mary alumnus, said she has not always agreed with Colonial Williamsburg’s actions — such as layoffs during its  “fundamental restructuring” — but the choice to have “Fox and Friends” at the Governor’s Palace left her feeling “personally affronted.”

Glendening plans to let Colonial Williamsburg Foundation management know her feelings, she said.

After seeing news on the internet about a Fox and Friends visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
After seeing news on the internet about a “Fox and Friends” visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

David Parker, 24, stood about 20 feet from Glendening on the Palace Green and was one of the louder protesters Tuesday.

Parker moved to Williamsburg to work with Colonial Williamsburg, but he finished his last day on the job Monday, planning to attend graduate school. He said the “Fox and Friends” broadcast and his leaving his job are not related.

Parker said he was disappointed, saying that Colonial Williamsburg is “carrying water” for Fox News because he believes the news outlet spreads falsehoods, is biased and propagates misinformation.

“It’s an abuse of our history,” Parker said. “I don’t think as a living history museum, we should have these people here to use actual resources to promote a poisonous, evil message.”

Colonial Williamsbug spokesman Joe Straw said the broadcast was part of the organization’s broader promotional mission.

“Colonial Williamsburg works regularly with a wide array of media organizations to engage different audiences and share America’s enduring story,” Colonial Williamsburg spokesman Joe Straw said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “These collaborations are critical to promotion of Colonial Williamsburg in support of guest visitation and the regional economy. They also reflect the founding ideals of our nation that we interpret every day, including the importance of a free and independent press and robust civic discourse in public spaces. We routinely welcome television and media outlets, regardless of their editorial positions.”

Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums emerge from the Governor's Palace at 9 a.m. after a live Fox News broadcast. After seeing news on the internet about a Fox and Friends visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums emerge from the Governor’s Palace at 9 a.m. after a live Fox News broadcast. After seeing news on the internet about a “Fox and Friends” visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Straw added that Colonial Williamsburg has pitched, invited or hosted other outlets in recent years. Those outlets include MSNBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, VICE News, the BBC, NPR, PBS, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, CBN, BET, CBS, The Atlantic and the New York Times.

Williamsburg Police and Colonial Williamsburg’s private police force and security were present as the small group of protesters held up signs. Williamsburg Police spokesman Maj. Greg Riley said the group was exercising their First Amendment right, and police had not encountered any issues.

Promoting tourism

Nearby, in a separate area of the Palace Green, others interested in the “Fox and Friends” broadcast watched both the protesters and television crews. Some, like Lois Stallman and her children, hoped to meet Kooiman.

Stallman said Colonial Williamsburg and other historic sites in the region need national attention, such as Fox News programming, to promote tourism.

Stallman wore a navy-blue Trump hat, and her son wore a white “Make America Great Again” hat.

“People should see the area in a positive light, so people will want to come here,” she said.

Around 9 a.m., Kooiman emerged, flanked by a security guard dressed in all black.

Gene and Karen Niston, of Texas, take a photo of Lois Stallman and her children with Fox News reporter Anna Kooiman. After seeing news on the internet about a Fox and Friends visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Gene and Karen Niston, of Texas, take a photo of Lois Stallman and her children with Fox News reporter Anna Kooiman. After seeing news on the internet about a “Fox and Friends” visit to the Historic Area, about a dozen protesters took to the Palace Green, carrying signs and occasionally shouting at Fox News crews. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Gene Nitson and his wife, Karen, also stood in the group watching the “Fox and Friends” broadcast and took photographs with Kooiman.

The Nitsons flew into Richmond late Monday night, arriving around 1 a.m. The couple woke up early to visit Colonial Williamsburg and see the Fox News crew, Gene Nitson said.

Gene Nitson said he thought some of the protester’s signs were inappropriate because children could read them, including one that said “F the NRA.”

Stallman agreed, suggesting some signs spread “hateful messages” and “vulgarity.”

Gene Nitson is a government teacher in Texas, and said the protesters have a First Amendment right but need to “consider the consequences” of what they say.”

“I see it every day in the classroom,” he said. “You’ll tolerate it until the person on the other side of the aisle disagrees with you.”

Activism under the Trump administration

As Kooiman visited with fans, Marianne Wrightson stood about 25 feet away, singing “We shall overcome.”

Wrightson, of James City County, said she has become increasingly busy with activism since President Donald Trump took office.

She said she believes Fox News and “Fox and Friends” have the president’s ear and also “reflect back” to the public what they hear from the president.

At one point, Wrightson dropped her sign and ventured over to a group of Fox News supporters, including the Nitsons, to start a conversation. She said the discussions “were nice.”

Wrightson attended the protest with Jill Zimmerman.

“I have to come because I can,” said Zimmerman. “There are some people who can’t be here, so I will.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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