The comments by Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire, who appeared on “The Story,” came hours after Thunberg delivered an emotional speech at the United Nations berating world leaders for failing to act on climate change.
But Knowles didn’t see an impassioned young activist fighting for her planet.
Instead, he repeatedly called Thunberg “mentally ill” and claimed she was “being exploited by her parents and by the international left.”
Democratic commentator Chris Hahn, also on the show, immediately called him out for it.
“You’re a grown man and you’re attacking a child,” he said. “Shame on you.”
Knowles replied: “I’m not. I’m attacking the left for exploiting a mentally ill child.”
But Hahn didn’t let it slide.
“Relax, skinny boy, I got this, OK? You’re attacking a child,” he said. “You’re a grown man. Have some couth.”
Knowles cut in with a verbatim repetition of his attack: “I’m not. I’m attacking the left for exploiting a mentally ill child.”
Then, Hahn let loose:
“Maybe on your podcast you can get away and say whatever you want because nobody’s listening. You’re on national television. Be a grown-up when you’re talking about children. She’s trying to save the planet because your president doesn’t believe in climate change and kids need to take to the streets to worry about their future.”
Hahn called Knowles “despicable” and demanded that he apologise.
Knowles instead said she has “many mental illnesses.”
He did not apologise, but Fox News did.
“The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on ‘The Story’ tonight was disgraceful,” a network spokesperson said. “We apologise to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.”
The spokesperson added that there were “no plans to book Knowles again.”
Thunberg has Asperger syndrome, which is a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum, not a mental illness, but it has been used as a right-wing talking point to attack the young activist.
Last month, she said that “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’” and instead called Asperger’s a “superpower,” writing:
Advocates from within the autism community also hit back at Knowles.
“Certainly some might disagree with Ms. Thunberg on policy issues, but it is shameful to issue a derogatory statement to a youth advocate,” the Autism Society told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement.