There was a celebratory mood outside the FOX News building in midtown Manhattan Thursday evening, as a new Christmas tree was lit up to replace the one that was burned down just after midnight on Wednesday.
Crowds gathered once again outside the company's headquarters, chanting "U.S.A" as they watched a second artificial tree light up.
While the scene was a festive one, some were left wondering and concerned that the man who was responsible for the original tree's burning was back out on the streets thanks to bail reform laws.
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Craig Tamanaha was taken into custody at the West 48th Street and Sixth Avenue scene just after midnight Wednesday and arraigned late that night on a bevy of charges, including second-degree criminal mischief, a felony, second-degree reckless endangerment and fifth-degree arson, according to the complaint.
The 49-year-old Brooklyn man allegedly told investigators, "I have been thinking about lighting the tree on fire all day long," according to a criminal complaint released Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear how the fire was set, though authorities allege a lighter was recovered from Tamanaha's pocket at the time he was taken into custody. It appeared that he acted alone, police said.
Videos posted by witnesses to the Citizen App showed thick clouds of black smoke coming from the artificial tree after the fire was lit.
Under the state's new bail reform laws, Tamanaha was released from jail pending his next hearing after the arraignment. He is being represented by Legal Aid, and is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 4.
Police officials said the fire, which was deemed incendiary by fire marshals, caused an estimated $500,000 in property damage in addition to unnecessarily frightening anyone who happened to walk by as the stunning scene developed.
No injuries were reported, but FOX News Media CEO Suzanne Scott blasted the incident as a "malicious arson attack" in a company-wide email sent Wednesday. Some of the company's on-air hosts suggested that lighting a symbol of Christmas on fire could be even more sinister.
"Who says it's not a hate crime against us, against FOX News," said "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade while on-air Thursday morning.
Hate crime charges could be a something of a stretch, as courts have generally ruled that Christmas trees are secular, not religious symbols. And there is no evidence yet that Tamanaha made any anti-religious remarks.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that Tamanaha, who is thought to be homeless, has a lengthy arrest record, with low-level out-of-state arrests. Investigators were looking into whether mental illness could have been a reason he started the fire, and Shea said that the motive is not yet clear, but police have said that it didn't appear to be premeditated or politically motivated.
The Manhattan district attorney's office had no comment when asked if hate crime charges were ever considered against Tamanaha. Still, some believe the fire may have bee targeted in some way.
"It's not just our tree, it's your tree, this is a symbol for people all across the country. It's the all-American Christmas tree," said fellow "Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy.
Some who were outside to watch the new tree light up agreed.
"It was an attack on FOX News, because we're all Republicans, we're all Trumpsters," said Tom Hammer of Howard Beach.
The FOX News building on Avenue of the Americas just celebrated the Christmas tree on Sunday. It was filled with 10,000 glass ornaments, 100,000 lights and it took over 21 hours to put together. Crews had to take down the charred remnants.
In a company-wide memo, Scott said it was fortunate there were no injuries and that all employees working at the time of the blaze stayed safe. She thanked the FDNY and NYPD for their roles in extinguishing the fire and apprehending the suspect and vowed that Wednesday's action would not deter future celebrations.
"The 50-foot tree, which was just lit in a beautiful on-air ceremony on Sunday night, was engulfed in flames and smoke permeated the building," Scott wrote. "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."