On her show Tuesday evening, Banfield read aloud a portion of Babe.net writer Katie Way's email to her, telling the audience it might offer “insight into the caliber of person who held that nuclear weapon that was wielded on Ansari’s career.”
"Ashleigh, someone I am certain nobody under the age of 45 has heard of," Banfield read aloud. "I hope the 500 retweets on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick, bad highlights, second-wave feminist has-been really relevant for a little while."
Banfield fired back at Way, calling her "hypocritical" and insulting her commitment to feminism.
"The reason I want to share that is because," Banfield continued, "if you truly believe in the #MeToo movement, if you truly believe in women’s rights, if you truly believe in feminism, the last thing you should do is attack someone in an ad hominem way for her age — I’m 50. And for my highlights — I was brown-haired for a while when I was a war correspondent interviewing Yasser Arafat and in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gaza and the West Bank. Google those places."
"That is not the way we have this conversation, as women or men — as journalists," Banfield added.
"We do not attack people for their age or their highlights or their lipstick because it is the most hypocritical thing a woman who says she supports the women’s movement could ever do, and that’s the caliber of the woman who was given all of this power and was able to wield this power."
Many people in media are defending Banfield and criticizing Way for the email. New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi called the email "despicable."
The Washington Free Beacon's Alex Griswold called the email "extremely nasty and immature."
"If you want to prove your journalistic chops, don't send a deranged sexist email to another journalist making fun of the way she looks," said Vice's Eve Peyser.
In an email to Business Insider, Babe.net editor Amanda Ross said Way had sent the email after an HLN producer invited her on the show. The quote that was read on air was only "a fraction" of the email, Ross said.
In the full email, Way criticized Banfield for the way she attacked Ansari's accuser, rather than speaking to Way or her editors.
"The way your colleague Ashleigh (?), someone I'm certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of, by the way, ripped into my source directly was one of the lowest, most despicable things I've ever seen in my entire life," wrote Way.
"Shame on her. Shame on HLN. Ashleigh could have 'talked' to me. She could have 'talked' to my editor or my publication," Way continued. "But instead, she targeted a 23-year-old woman in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life, someone she's never fucking met before, for a little attention."
Ross and Way did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
A spokesperson for Banfield told BuzzFeed News they're "gonna let the clip speak for itself."