Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
Fox News and numerous other conservative media outlets uncritically presented the misleading conclusions of a May 2016 report by the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claimed that immigrant-headed households consume more welfare than households headed by native-born people. Right-wing media have ignored criticism from experts pointing out the report’s methodological flaws and exaggerations in order to present immigrants as a fiscal burden.
Right-wing outlets including Breitbart, Newsmax, and The Daily Caller hyped the May 9 CIS report claiming that immigrant-headed households receive more welfare than households headed by native-borns. On May 12, Fox correspondent Eric Shawn presented the study’s claims uncritically during the “Truth Serum” segment of Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor. Host Bill O’Reilly introduced the segment by announcing the story was about “tax money going to support illegal aliens”:
Experts have already leveled criticism at the report. Immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh wrote that “The CIS headline result … lacks any kind of reasonable statistical controls” and that “CIS’ buried results undermine their own headline findings.” The American Immigration Council called the report “fundamentally flawed” and criticized its methodology as “creative accounting”:
The biggest shortcoming of both reports is that they count the public benefits utilized by U.S.-born children as costs incurred by the “immigrant-headed households” of which they are a part—at least until those children turn 18, that is, at which point they are counted as “natives.”
The problem with this kind of creative accounting is that all children are “costly” when they are young because they consume educational and health services without contributing any tax revenue. However, that situation reverses when they are working-age adults who, in a sense, “pay back” in taxes what they consumed as children. So it is disingenuous to count them as a “cost of immigration” one minute, and then as native-born taxpayers the next minute.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), CIS has ties to hate groups in the nativist lobby and “has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks.” CIS has repeatedly been criticized for publishing shoddy research work that includes the “misinterpretation and manipulation of data” and methodologies that are “deeply flawed.”
These criticisms of the new report received no mention on right-wing media reports on the study. Previous equally flawed CIS studies have been similarly promoted by conservative media, indicating a pattern: CIS publishes a study with anti-immigrant conclusions, and right-wing media ignore facts to report it uncritically, despite expert criticisms pointing to methodological flaws, nuances, or controls that undermine the study’s conclusion. This cycle joins other dishonest strategies from the immigrant smearing playbook that have been repeatedly employed by right-wing media.
Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.
Right-wing media figures have for years advocated in favor of denying undocumented immigrant students access to public education,and now an Associated Press investigation reports that it may be happening "in at least 35 districts in 14 states." These policies may be not only unconstitutional -- according to a Supreme Court ruling that specifically bans public school districts from denying enrollment to children based on their immigration status -- but also illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Conservative media frequently push the debunked claim that immigrants pose a threat to public health, merely changing the disease to fit their narrative. Fox News repackaged a popular nativist and anti-immigrant smear claiming that the child migrants from Central America were "an illegal health risk" and were bringing diseases into the country according to internal CDC emails.
On the April 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert reported that "disease" had come with the "thousands of immigrant children" who came to the United States in 2014, fleeing violence from their home countries. The assertion was based on documents recently made public by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch showing officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coordinating responses for the possibility of unaccompanied minors arriving with tuberculosis:
While the CDC acknowledged that “a small number of cases of TB have been identified,” it also noted that “CDC believes the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the general public.”
Similar claims to Fox News' have been debunked by experts previously. In 2015 the fact-checking website PolitiFact examined Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's claim that "tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border" and wrote that "The experts we contacted agreed that there is no evidence of a massive influx of infections across the border" as a consequence of undocumented immigration. An NBC News report explained that, in fact, most of the illnesses found in unaccompanied child immigrants were “nothing unusual,” including the common cold and head lice. NBC also noted that mechanisms were put in place so that arrivals are screened for tuberculosis -- which is not casually transmitted -- and facilities with the capacity to quarantine were made available. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, immunization rates for tuberculosis in Central America are above 80 percent. Tuberculosis in the United States has had a declining incidence for decades, with a relatively small increase of 157 more cases in 2015, which, according to the CDC, cannot be pinned on a single variable like undocumented immigration, since funding for prevention has been reduced or stagnant nationwide.
However, the trope of immigrants carrying diseases to the United States is often perpetuated by anti-immigrant and nativist groups hoping to stoke fear and resentment towards immigrants. According to one expert, “There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners.” Fox News and other conservative media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham -- have pushed this smear, blaming immigrants for diseases that range from leprosy, measles, chickenpox, and dengue to ente
Fox News demostró su tendencia a infundir temores anti-inmigrantes cuando recientemente aprovechó un reporte de que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional puso fin a un programa de seguridad fronteriza que en realidad nunca fue implementado -- y fue desechado debido a preocupaciones de que llevaría a los medios a emitir alarmas sin fundamento. Fox usó las noticias para infundir temores sobre "ilegales entrando al país".
De acuerdo a la Associated Press, el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS por sus siglas en inglés) desechó una propuesta para un programa que nunca fue implementado y que consistía en el uso de un índice basado en colores para medir la seguridad fronteriza. El programa, propuesto por el personal de la agencia, habría usado un sistema de colores para señalizar las millas a lo largo de la frontera estadounidense, "donde sería más probable que la Patrulla Fronteriza captura inmigrantes ilegales". Rojo simbolizaría "alto riesgo", amarillo "riesgo mediano" y verde "bajo riesgo". El programa nunca fue implementado, y fue desechado luego de que un grupo de consultores del DHS coincidieron en que era "una sobre-simplificación de un problema muy complejo", y advirtieron que podría llevar a figuras mediáticas a sensacionalizar los temas de seguridad fronteriza y a "producir historias engañosas sobre una frontera fuera de control".
Los consultores del DHS explicaron que debido a que el programa mediría la seguridad fronteriza en solamente "tres grandes canastas" (rojo, amarillo y verde) -- y debido a que dos de las canastas pueden interpretarse como indicadoras de seguridad laxa -- "reporteros sedientos de titulares que llamen la atención" podrían hacer uso del índice para provocar reportes amarillistas e infundir temores de que hay una "frontera fuera de control".
Los presentadores de Fox News inmediatamente aprovecharon el anuncio del DHS para hacer precisamente eso. En la edición del 22 de abril del programa de Fox News Fox & Friends, la presentadora Heather Nauert repetidamente infundió temores sobre “inseguridad fronteriza”, diciéndole a sus televidentes "acostúmbrense a ... ilegales entrando al país" porque el personal del DHS desechó el “índice de colores” representando la seguridad fronteriza “mientras ustedes dormían”. El reporte de Nauert fue acompañado por imagenes en la pantalla mostrando grandes números de inmigrantes cruzando la frontera y escalando una pared; dijo que la audiencia debería "acostumbrarse a este tipo de escenas":
Fox tiene una larga historia de infundir miedos anti-inmigrantes sin fundamento alguno para crear la falsa impresión de que "la inmigración ilegal se ha disparado a niveles sin precedente" cuando en realidad, varios estudios demuestran que la inmigración ilegal se encuentra ahora "a sus niveles más bajos desde 2003" y que ha ido declinando continuamente desde 2008. La AP notó que las capturas por parte de la Patrulla Fronteriza han disminuido a su cifra más baja en 44 años, y aunque este número no necesariamente cuenta la historia completa, puede indicar que "la frontera está relativamente segura".
Fox News’ latest round of anti-immigrant fearmongering seizes on a report that the Department of Homeland Security ended a border security program that was never actually implemented – and was scrapped based on concerns it would baselessly fuel media fearmongering. Fox used the news to stoke fears about “illegals crossing into this country.”
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) scrapped a proposal for a never-initiated program to use a color-coded index system to measure border security. The program, proposed by agency staff, would have used a color system to measure miles along the U.S. border “where the Border Patrol was likely to capture illegal immigrants.” Red would indicate “high risk,” yellow “medium risk,” and green “low risk.” The program was never implemented, having been scrapped after DHS consultants agreed it was “‘an oversimplification of a very complex problem,’” and warned it could lead media figures to sensationalize border security and “produce misleading stories of an out-of-control border.”
DHS consultants explained that because the program would measure border security in just “‘three large baskets,’” (red, yellow, and green) -- and because two of the baskets could be interpreted as indicating poor security -- “reporters with an appetite for eye-catching headlines” could use the index to fuel sensational, fearmongering reports of an “out-of-control border.”
Fox News hosts immediately seized on the DHS announcement to do just that. On the April 22 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert repeatedly stoked fears of “border insecurity,” telling viewers to “get used to … illegals crossing into this country” because DHS officials scrapped the “color-coded bored index” “while you were sleeping.” Nauert’s report accompanied on-screen graphics of immigrants crossing the border in large numbers, and scaling a wall; she said viewers should “get used to scenes like this”:
Fox has a long history of baselessly stoking anti-immigrant fears to create the false “impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels” when in reality, multiple studies show that illegal immigration is “now at its lowest level since 2003” and that it has been declining steadily since 2008. The AP noted that Border Patrol apprehensions fell to a 44-year low last year, and though that number does not give a complete picture, it may indicate that “the border is relatively secure.”
According to the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, the Obama administration cannot exercise prosecutorial discretion in deferring deportation for certain undocumented immigrants because such discretion cannot be applied to "entire classes of people." For years, the board has misrepresented the way Obama's executive actions on immigration defer deportation for some undocumented immigrants, despite legal experts and evidence showing that the administration can apply prosecutorial discretion as it reviews deferred action cases on a "case-by-case basis."
The New York Times editorial board condemned the legal challenge to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration as “a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade wrapped in legal briefs.”
On April 18, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in U.S. v. Texas, the challenge to the Obama administration’s programs that could protect 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and grant them the legal right to hold a job. Right-wing media have pushed misinformation about the programs, falsely claiming that they will cause a “constitutional crisis,” lead to Obama’s impeachment, cost $2 trillion, and harm American workers.
On April 16, the Times’ editorial board called the case “one of the most flagrant examples in recent memory of a naked political dispute masquerading as a legal one,” and wrote that the Supreme Court “should reject the plaintiffs’ absurd claim.” The board explained that the actions are, in fact, “well within Mr. Obama’s authority,” given that -- as the Supreme Court observed in 2012 -- “the federal government has ‘broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens.’” The board then concluded that Obama’s executive actions to shield the parents of American citizens and permanent residents from deportation are “smart politics and humane policy” and condemned the challenge as “a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade”:
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Texas, one of the most flagrant examples in recent memory of a naked political dispute masquerading as a legal one.
In this case, 26 Republican-led states brought suit against President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions to protect millions of immigrants from deportation. And once again, the prospect of a 4-to-4 split on the court threatens to spur widespread legal chaos by effectively giving these 26 states the power to set national immigration policy. But it need not come to that. If the justices follow their own precedent as well as longstanding practice, they should reject the plaintiffs’ absurd claim.
This is both smart politics and humane policy, and it falls well within Mr. Obama’s authority. As the Supreme Court reiterated in 2012, the federal government has “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens.”
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. likes to say that the court is above politics. This case, which has never been more than a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade wrapped in legal briefs, gives him and the court a clear opportunity to reaffirm that principle and leave fights like these to the political process.
On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.
During the April 13 edition of Univision's Noticiero Univisión Edición Nocturna, Galo Arellano outlined Republican Secretary of State of Kansas Kris Kobach's aggressive career-long efforts against undocumented immigrants.
Kobach recently took credit for GOP front-runner Donald Trump's plan to force Mexico to fund a border wall by blocking the remittances that Mexican workers send to support their families. Univision highlighted this and recapped Kobach's record of harshly cracking down on the undocumented population. Arellano reported that "when it comes to anti-immigrant proposals, [Kobach] has always been available to pitch the strictest and most far-fetched measures," including advising 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney's platform of "self-deportations," helping draft Arizona's "papers-please" HB1070 legislation, and suing states for granting in-state tuition to undocumented students.
Kobach also notably has ties with white nationalists and hate groups and has pushed to limit voting rights for minorities. His office recently published a voter guide in Spanish that included inaccurate information about voter registration not found in the English-language versions.
From the April 13 edition of Univision's Noticiero Univisión Edición Nocturna:
ILIA CALDERÓN (HOST): One of the people most likely to put obstacles in the way of immigrants has been Kris Kobach. He says he's convinced that much of the blame for unemployment in the United States lies with immigrants arriving in the country. Today Galo Arellano brings us a recap of the things this man has done over the years attempting to shoot down the so-called "American dream" of millions of immigrants.
GALO ARELLANO (REPORTER): The brain behind the construction of Donald Trump's border wall has a first and last name: Kris Kobach. But he doesn't only stand out for that. When it comes to anti-immigrant proposals, he has always been available to pitch the strictest and most far-fetched measures to, according to him, control the entry of undocumented immigrants to the United States. Univision first met Kobach in 2012, when he had been Secretary of State of Kansas for a year. Back then he authored the presidential initiative of self-deportation that Mitt Romney pushed, which in a few words, sought to block all types of access to jobs so undocumented immigrants would return voluntarily to their countries of origin due to a lack of opportunities. His plan, he explained back then, was to make it impossible for an immigrant to work with fake documents, and he said it was totally realistic that entire families with undocumented heads of household would self-deport, even though in many cases their children were born in the U.S. He's also behind anti-immigrant legislation in Alabama, and Arizona's HB1070 was similarly inspired by Kobach, who is gaining standing within the Republican Party and who currently advises Donald Trump. He's told media outlets that Trump has been receptive to the idea of blocking the $20 billion in remittances that Mexicans send every year to their families in other countries, as a way to pressure the Mexican government to fund the entire cost of building a border wall, estimated at $10 billion.
PAOLA CALVO (ACTIVIST): Closing the border with a wall is not the solution for the problem we're having. What we should do is really think of an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
ARELLANO: But in a letter endorsing the mogul, Kobach states that because "there are too many Americans who are out of work because of illegal immigration,” “America needs Mr. Trump's aggressive approach to the problem of illegal immigration." Despite the criticism that his proposal has received, he says that if they capitalize on the enthusiasm raised by Trump in the electorate, they could see their dreams of a wall turn into a reality.
ARELLANO: Well, Kobach is currently 50 years old. In his career he's sued states like Kansas, California, and Nebraska for implementing legislation that benefits undocumented immigrants. Back to you, Enrique.
ENRIQUE ACEVEDO (HOST): Kobach, and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the brains on the issue of immigration for Trump. Thanks, Galo Arellano.
Loading the player reg...
As details emerge about the tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels, media should take great care to accurately report on the attacks without making sweeping generalizations about the Belgian Muslim community. Media in the past have blamed European Muslim communities as a whole for terrorist attacks and parroted debunked myths about purported "no-go zones" that are supposedly off limits to non-Muslims.
On March 22, a series of explosions rocked Brussels' main international airport and part of its subway system, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds more. Reuters reported that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Media commented that "Tuesday's explosions at Brussels airport and on the subway network will turn the spotlight on the Belgian capital's Molenbeek suburb," where one of the November Paris terrorist attackers, Salah Abdelsalam, was captured just days before.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, media noted that terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Sharia4Belgium, have "shifted [their] focus in recent years from promoting Islamic law in Belgium to recruiting for the war in Syria." Terrorist organizations have exploited Belgium's large Muslim population to draw "more jihadists to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq per capita" than have come from "any other Western European nation," according to CNN.
But to cast Brussels as a fraught city mired in inescapable terrorism not only is a mischaracterization, but also it inevitably leads to guilt by association for the entire Muslim community in the area.
Commentators should avoid conflating and blaming Molenbeek's Muslim community for the terrorist attack and its previous associations with terrorism. Media have previously reported that Molenbeek "is not a place that seems especially threatening," a key distinction after "the so-called Belgian connection in the Paris attacks ... revived the district's reputation as the 'jihadi capital of Europe.'" Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell noted that the residents of Molenbeek "decry" the "jihadi capital" "characterization ... as more media hype than reality." The Atlantic similarly noted that Molenbeek "has a strong middle class, bustling commercial districts, and a gentrifying artist class," and that "journalists seem to [have] little trouble reporting" from the neighborhood, which looks "in many ways like a typical, somewhat run-down district."
Bilal Benyaich, an author of two books on radicalism, extremism, and terrorism, told Al Jazeera it is a mistake to conflate the reality of Brussels as the "European capital of political Islam" with the "exaggerated" claims that it is the "capital of jihad." Similarly, The Guardian notes, "the concentration of violent militants in Molenbeek ... may not be about places, but people," underscoring how although ISIS and other terrorist organizations have attempted to exploit Brussels' Muslim population, terrorism and violence are not inherent to the community.
Often when focus turns toward European-based terrorist attacks, media revive the debunked myth of so-called Muslim "no-go zones," or supposedly Muslim-only enclaves where media allege that outside police forces are prevented from entering and Sharia flourishes. As has been documented, no such "no-go zones" exist. Instead, as Richard Engel explained on MSNBC's Morning Joe, these areas are fraught with socioeconomic distress, and residents there "will tell you that it's about racism, that they're blocked from jobs, that they're blocked from government employment, that they don't get the same kind of social services."
Purveyors of misinformation in the past have spun these socioeconomic problems to allege that state governments "no longer [have] full control over [their] territory" and thus that these neighborhoods are off-limits to law enforcement, as U.S. historian Daniel Pipes mistakenly asserted in 2006.
In 2015, frequent Fox guest Steve Emerson -- part of the network's stable of extremists who lead its conversation about Islam -- seized on the "no-go zone" myth and provoked international outrage with the false claim that the city of Birmingham, England, is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go." As the Emerson controversy raged on, another Fox News guest argued that governments should "put razor wire around" the mythical "no-go zones" and catalog the residents. Days later, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro apologized for Emerson's "incorrect" comments, telling viewers, "We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended."
Already, media are beginning to inch toward the false assertion that "no-go zones" are both the cause and consequence of extremism and the Brussels terrorist attacks. The conditions of this tragedy seem to be similar to previous incidents, where pundits blamed a specific Muslim community or Muslim-majority city for the attacks.
Accordingly, media should take great care to undertake responsible, sensitive, and factually accurate reporting that avoids smearing Brussels' Muslim community and steers clear of the "no-go zone" myth.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Telemundo, the second largest Spanish-language network in the U.S., and Maria Celeste Arrarás -- co-anchor of the network's daily news show Noticiero Telemundo -- illustrated the value of Spanish-language media as they joined CNN to host the February 25 Republican presidential primary debate. Arrarás' understanding of the Latino community helped her press the candidates and provide clarity on the issues that Latinos care most about. And her participation shined a spotlight on both the value of diversity in newsrooms and the important role Latinos in the media play in empowering their communities to "engage at a higher level."
The Republican National Committee (RNC) avoided further alienating the Hispanic community by reinstating the only RNC-sanctioned debate to air on a Spanish-language network, which had originally been canceled back in October.
The Washington Post's Callum Borchers wrote that Telemundo "showed the value of Spanish-language media," in the debate, and Arrarás "made meaningful contributions" as a panelist, by pressing "all the candidates on the GOP's outreach to Latinos." He said she forced Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to clarify his shifting immigration policies, including his pledge to end President Obama's executive action on immigration "on his first day in office," and confronted Trump with the reality of his consistently unfavorable polling numbers with Latinos. She also framed the border-wall issue in a manner that "might make some voters think about it in a new way."
While many journalists have called out Rubio for his shifting positions on immigration, Arrarás' push to get specifics out of the candidate was particularly poignant for the Hispanic community, which has greatly benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Rubio says he would end.
While moderators in other GOP debates have used the slur "illegal immigrants" to refer to undocumented immigrants, the Telemundo debate was free of that language. Arrarás' presence created a more diverse panel, and her understanding of the Latino community may have deterred others from referring to immigrants offensively.
Arrarás' performance at the debate illustrated experts' finding that diversity in the media has the benefits of reaching new audiences and improving the quality of coverage. It can also help combat problematic trends. Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis has explained that pundits, anchors, and newsrooms often contribute to criminalized media depictions of people of color, portraying them as inherently criminal, violent, adverse to authority, lacking innocence, and deserving of brutal treatment. A lack of newsroom diversity greatly affects the accuracy of media narratives. According to Dori J. Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education "there are stories being missed due to a dearth of diverse perspectives ... not to mention critical nuances tied to culture and background, all of which ultimately make for better journalism."
Yet Latinos -- who make up 17 percent of the population and whose voting power is expected to deeply impact the 2016 election -- like other people of color, are still underrepresented in the media. This underrepresentation leads not only to an absence of substantive coverage of the issues that matter the most to Latinos, but also to inaccurate portrayals that perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Prominent Latino leaders have remarked on the need to improve Latino visibility in the media. The National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) Janet Murguía has emphasized the importance of Hispanic media figures, saying they have "a real understanding of the Latino community" and are therefore uniquely positioned to make "sure that our community is more informed" and "can engage at a higher level."
Loading the player reg...