The Fox News Christmas tree burned down early Wednesday morning and Craig Tamanaha was charged with the arson attack. The 49-year-old was taken into custody at the scene and officers believe that he acted alone. A motive is unclear, and police continue to investigate.
After he was arrested, Tamanaha was charged with arson, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, trespassing, tampering, disorderly conduct and criminal nuisance. The New York man caused over $50,000 in damage.
According to reports, the tree, which was located at West 48th Street and Sixth Avenue next to the Fox News building, burst into flames around 12:15 a.m. Police alleged that Tamanaha climbed up the artificial tree and lit pieces of paper on fire before shoving them into the tree. He then climbed down and watched the blaze from the street before being arrested by police.
The man had a lighter in his possession when police took him into custody. No one was harmed during the arson attack, but many people walking by became frightened by the flaming tree. Others posted the spectacle on Twitter.
Police have not figured out a motive, but they believe the arsonist was acting alone, and mental illness could have influenced the burning of the Fox News Christmas tree. At the moment, officers believe that there was no political motivation behind the attack.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, “The motive I don’t think is clear at this point. It’s an individual that is known to us. He has a series of low-level arrests and drug arrest. He was issued earlier this year some appearance tickets and didn’t come back to court, which unfortunately is something we see all too often. Also has some low-level arrests out of state.”
Reports show that Craig Tamanaha has three prior arrests, two for drug possession and one for public intoxication. It is believed that he is homeless, and his last known address was listed in Brooklyn.
The Fox News Christmas tree has been a tradition for the past three years. The tree takes 21 hours to put together and is filled with 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. The tree is over 50 feet tall. The Fox News team just celebrated the creation with a tree lighting ceremony on Sunday.
After it burned down, FOX News Media CEO Suzanne Scott wrote an internal email to the news station and called the arson attack “malicious.” She said, “This has become a new wonderful tradition on FOX Square over the last three years. We will not let this deliberate and brazen act of cowardice deter us. We are in the process of building and installing a new tree as a message that there can be peace, light and joy even during a dark moment like this.”
Scott also thanked the NYPD and FDNY for putting out the flames and was thankful that no one was injured during the fire. The news station is planning a second lighting ceremony for the new tree.
Other members of the Fox News team have come out and criticized the arson attack on the Fox News Christmas tree. They said it’s just another sign of the rising crime in New York City. Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts for Fox & Friends, expressed his anger during Wednesday’s episode.
He said, “I mean, it’s just part of the rampancy [sic.] that no city is safe, no person is safe, from the subway on down. This is beyond tragic,” Kilmeade added. “This is part of a bigger problem. It’s the crime surge in this country.”
The hosts then went on to talk about the spike in crime that they are seeing in “Joe Biden’s America.”
The NYPD continues to investigate the arson attack.