By Erin Lee, CNN
The Fox News anchor who came to the defense of a North Carolina woman who stormed Capitol Hill earlier this year was playing the woman, her attorney has told CNN.
FOX News commentator Laura Ingraham and a reporter from her nationally syndicated radio show were first to question the motives of Ivory Banks, the North Carolina woman who on January 6 scaled the Capitol fence.
“People are saying that she climbed over the fence because she is trying to get into Trump Tower. What do you say to that?” Ingraham asked at the time. Banks claimed she was trying to visit her mother, but other members of the public said that they witnessed her climbing the fence around the US Capitol building.
Gail Wolfe, Banks’ attorney, told CNN on Tuesday that Fox News was playing a “purposeful” role to downplay Banks’ actions in the January interview, and that as a result, the interview made Banks “frightened.” She said she plans to file a lawsuit against Ingraham and Wolfe on Wednesday morning.
Wolfe argued in her written statement that Fox News was editing interviews to harm her client’s reputation.
“I want to make it perfectly clear that Fox has played a part in my client’s frightening journey back to the woodshed from which she was essentially thrown,” Wolfe wrote in a prepared statement. “The information being reported is either being taken out of context by Fox – or the intent is to hurt someone they don’t like and try to ‘besmirch’ their reputation.”
A Fox News spokesperson called the comments “inaccurate” but declined to comment further.
The news was first reported by The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker.
On January 14, Banks pled guilty to scaling the Capitol fence and was found guilty of being an unlawful trespasser. She was sentenced to probation and required to stay away from Capitol grounds for three years. Her attorney contends that she has violated her probation numerous times by going to Capitol Hill or doing other things related to what she did there.
The attorneys say she and her attorneys had previously reached out to Ingraham and Fox News, to make their case, but that these offers were ignored. Wolfe told CNN in a separate phone interview on Tuesday that “otherwise you’d think that Fox would want to protect the interests of the guest who just went through the front door” of the Capitol building.
Wolfe said she believes other interview questions from Ingraham that preceded Banks on January 27 and the press briefing at the Capitol in February “were meant to smear my client” and appear hostile.
“This will not be tolerated,” she said.
Ingraham, who has continued to promote Banks on her show, wrote the following tweet on January 19 to commemorate Banks’ attempt to scale the Capitol fence: “No flag, no helmet, no weapons. She climbed to the top of a security fence at the US Capitol, displayed no identification, and was nabbed. True courage and impish spirit. #honorthewall.”
On May 14, she tweeted: “Ivory Bank accused of attempting to sneak into Trump Tower. One hopes that she made a quick stop at CNN headquarters for some coffee or a banana before heading to Alpha Kappa Alpha Fraternity house to finish the day.”
Wolfe also disputed Ingraham’s characterization that Banks was never arrested. On January 6, Bank was facing charges of “continuous trespass with an attempt to gain unauthorized entry,” and “criminal trespass with use of force, violence, or dangerous means,” according to a police report. A CNN spokesperson said at the time that Banks was arrested on the Capitol grounds.
Fox News has been involved in several investigations of its own, including one this spring in which the network responded to a New York Times story alleging sexual harassment and mistreatment by newsroom employees. It was also investigated for its coverage of the Sacha Baron Cohen prank sketch “Who Is America?” while the network’s president of news did not offer much to the public when discussing the matter.
Wolfe, who is also challenging a claim by Ingraham on the Fox News legal site that her client committed a crime with the Capitol trespass, said Tuesday that there were witnesses who saw the Capitol incident. He said Ingraham and Fox News should “be ashamed of themselves for bringing a public figure back to the woodshed to do an interview.”
“They need to apologize publicly to her and should make a donation to charity that has participated in helping her get to rehabilitation,” he said.
A spokesperson for Ingraham did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.