Fox News Editor Overseeing Crime Fearmongering Is Felon Himself

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For years, Fox News has pushed the narrative that the United States is undergoing a cataclysmic crime wave driven by drugs and young punks with guns who rob unsuspecting small businesses and get off easy because of soft-hearted judges.

Fox News might as well be talking about its own managing editor.

Tom Lowell, a longtime Fox News Channel producer who now runs the law-and-order-obsessed newsroom, took part in a 1986 liquor store burglary in South Florida that ended in a drug bust. And he got a slap on the wrist, despite cops saying the “burglary was extensive.”

Documents recently obtained by The Daily Beast shed light on what exactly Lowell, now 62, did years before society gave him a second chance, allowing him to launch a successful TV journalism career.

The New York Times first mentioned Lowell’s criminal past in a deep-dive last year about Tucker Carlson’s dramatic ascent at Fox News. The Times noted how Lowell had become a “major force behind” the changes in the news-side coverage before offering up a quick aside about the burglary.

“He was considered a favorite of the elder Mr. Murdoch, who appreciated his tabloidy approach to news curation,” New York Times reporter Nick Confessore wrote. “He was less popular among his subordinates, who nicknamed him ‘the burglar,’ on account of his reputation for stealing credit for ideas, and because of a long-ago incident that became Fox lore as he rose: In his 20s, Mr. Lowell and two friends were arrested after breaking into a liquor store in Florida.”

Several current and former Fox staffers said Lowell is known as a conservative fixture from the Roger Ailes era, referencing the Fox News chief who was ousted in 2016 following a bevy of sexual misconduct allegations.

According to Fox sources, Lowell is clean-cut—almost always in a suit and tie—and is very pro-police. One Fox News source said Lowell was intent on making cops “look like heroes” during the Black Lives Matter protests.

Until The New York Times piece dropped last year, many at the network were unaware of his criminal past. Still, several network insiders and staffers said they had yet to hear about the burglary until The Daily Beast approached them for this story.

After Tucker Carlson called for the GOP to campaign on “America’s Crime Crisis” last summer, the network’s daytime programming was inundated with hosts and commentators calling for states to “build more jails” over the “out-of-control crime crisis.” The spike in crime, according to Fox personalities, was due to “progressive prosecutors” who kept giving criminals “chance after chance after chance.”

“He’s tough on crime,” one Fox News insider, stationed at the headquarters in New York City, told The Daily Beast. “He thinks the city is a Democratic state and that’s the reason for the high crime rates.”

While Lowell declined to comment himself, a Fox News spokesperson was clear that Lowell’s transgressions occurred decades ago and that he has turned himself around despite dealing with personal demons.

“This incident took place nearly 40 years ago and is nothing more than a cheap shot at Tom, a stellar journalist, who has worked incredibly hard on his recovery and rebuilt his life after overcoming addiction,” the Fox News spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson also noted that Lowell has passed previous background checks throughout his journalism career, including an extensive security clearance for an interview at the White House with then-President Barack Obama.

The details that follow are from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s records.

Lowell’s story is a lot more interesting than him and a couple of friends breaking into a liquor store. The real story began Jan. 7, 1986, late on a cool and cloudy night in West Palm Beach, Florida. According to police records, Lowell, then 26, borrowed his girlfriend’s dad’s boxy 1977 Plymouth Volare. He drove with his pal, David M. Frey, about a half-hour away to a cluster of shops in the suburbs. They had a stolen sawed-off shotgun loaded in the trunk—an illegal modification that’s meant to increase the lethality of the firearm at close distance. Their target that night was a low-lying commercial building where a liquor store shared a wall with a hardware shop.

As described in police records, the liquor store’s alarm company recorded audio of the burglary and caught men instructing each other to “get this” and “no, don’t get that,” indicating that Lowell was an active participant and didn’t just wait outside.

“They started out in the hardware store then broke into the liquor store. They came in through the roof,” recalled Walter Morris Jr., the son of the couple that owned Moore’s Liquors.

Lowell and Frey used a steel rod from the hardware store to force their way into the liquor store, according to reports later written by several officers who responded to the scene. They then used a large chisel and 1-pound hammer to break into the liquor store’s safe and cash register. The duo even swiped a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson revolver that Walter Morris Sr. kept beneath the counter just in anyone ever tried to rob him.

“My dad’s been missing his .38 forever. He never got it back,” Morris Jr. told The Daily Beast.

At some point during the burglary shortly after midnight, the store alarm went off and the pair ran away. They dropped some of their tools in the store and fled into the nearby woods, where deputies later found their footprints, according to police records. But what the cops found in the silver car, which was loaded to the brim, made it an easy case. Lowell left his driver’s license and a pawn shop ticket with his personal information in the vehicle—along with five cans of Milwaukee Best beer, a case of cheap Clan MacGregor Scotch, another case of Smirnoff Vodka, a bottle of Bacardi rum, and an assortment of goodies that included a foot-long crowbar, bolt cutters, a machete, an eight-inch kitchen knife, a vial with a cocaine rock inside, the stolen and loaded Browning shotgun, and two Fisher-Price toy walkie talkies.

The car’s main cabin and trunk were filled with a long list of other stolen items, but they are redacted from the police records. The sheriff’s office had the car towed, and detectives picked up the case on the following day. They interviewed Lowell’s girlfriend, who they say initially lied but eventually came clean about the boys’ plan that night.

With a search warrant in hand, detectives raided Lowell’s place that afternoon. Police said they found Lowell and Frey doing cocaine. When the men spotted the cops, they made a run for it out the back, only to encounter two cops waiting for them.

“Det. Hagan directed suspect Thomas Lowell to assume horizontal spread eagle position on the ground,” reads one report.

A cop dog found the stolen revolver stashed in the bushes, and both men were taken into custody. While Frey allegedly confessed to everything, police records show that Lowell demanded an attorney and refused to talk.

When the criminal case wrapped up later that year, records show, Lowell was sentenced to three years probation for pleading guilty to two counts of grand theft—a third-degree felony. Under Florida law, he could have faced up to five years in prison.

It took Lowell several years to get his life back on track. He eventually moved to Massachusetts to study broadcast journalism at Emerson College, then landed a job as a news producer at a local station in Erie, Pennsylvania. He worked at several local TV stations and even returned to South Florida, where he worked at Miami’s Fox affiliate, WSVN. A review of public records did not show Lowell having any run-ins with the law after this 1986 burglary.

He’s been at the Fox News network since 2003, where he launched the weekday morning show America’s Newsroom and started two programs with the same anchor: America Live with Megyn Kelly and The Kelly File. The network made him vice president and managing editor of news in late 2016, just as Fox News made a further rightward turn at the start of the Trump presidential administration. He was then promoted to executive vice president in December 2020 and was placed in charge of all daytime news editorial contents.

The liquor store owner’s son told The Daily Beast he’s an avid Fox News watcher and was surprised to hear that the guy who burglarized his parents’ store ended up directing the network’s coverage.

“How the hell did that happen?” he asked. “Sounds like he was a good talker. Knowing my mom and dad, they probably didn’t want to prosecute. They were Catholic. They were forgiving.”

While much of Fox’s over-the-top coverage on rampant crime in Democrat-led cities is driven by the network’s firebrand opinion hosts, the conservative cable giant’s daytime news programming—which Lowell has overseen since late 2020—has also leaned in hard on the “crime is out of control” narrative.

In the run-up to the midterms last year, Fox News’ weekday programming went all-in on fearmongering about violent crime, averaging 141 segments a week, according to research by liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. The network has also unleashed on-air campaigns to oust “George Soros-funded prosecutors” that it feels are too lenient on criminals.

The breathless coverage of crime has only continued on the network’s airwaves in recent weeks. On Tuesday, midday news show Your World with Neil Cavuto devoted a lengthy segment to retail robberies in Portland, Oregon. After reporting that Walmart was shutting down two stores in the city “because of crime,” Cavuto turned to a muffler store owner who grumbled that law enforcement wasn’t doing enough to deter would-be robbers.

“Our prosecutors do not threaten them at all,” the owner fumed. “So all of these druggies, the thieves, they know they won’t get in trouble. It’s almost like you do something wrong, we slap your hand and send you out the door.”

Diana Falzone contributed to this report.

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