Fox News has repeatedly given Rep. Steve King (R-IA) a platform to discuss a number of political issues, including immigration, this year but has completely ignored his comments likening undocumented immigrants to drug smugglers -- even as the network has continued to discuss immigration issues. By contrast, both CNN and MSNBC have covered King's comments, which have drawn widespread condemnation from congressional Republicans.
Rep. King Repeatedly Smeared Undocumented Immigrants As Drug Smugglers
Rep. Steve King On Undocumented Youths: For Every One Valedictorian, Another 100 Are Drug Smugglers. During an interview with Newsmax, Rep. Steve King attacked undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers, saying that while he has sympathy for them being brought into this country illegally by their parents, not all of them are valedictorians:
KING: And there are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing that they were breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who would defend the rule of law: We have to do something about the 11 million. And some of them are valedictorians.
Well, my answer to that is -- and then by the way their parents brought them in. It wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases. But they're aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents.
For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. [Right Wing Watch, 7/22/13; Newsmax, 7/18/13]
In Subsequent Radio Interview, King Stated: "It's Not Something That I'm Making Up. This Is Real." In an interview with Radio Iowa on July 23, King reiterated his remarks that most DREAMers are drug smugglers. As Radio Iowa news director O. Kay Henderson reported, King replied to one critic who said he was offended by his remarks by saying, "[O]f course, he didn't have an alternative number. He didn't suggest that there are more valedictorians than there are drug mules, but it's enough for anybody to be offended these days. They apparently don't have to use their brain." He went on say:
It's not something that I'm making up. This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they've been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can't be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people. [OKayHenderson.com, 7/23/13]
King: "[T]here Are Many, Many Young People Coming Across The Border Unlawfully Who Are Smuggling Drugs Into The United States." Roll Call reported that King doubled down on his comments during a July 25 speech on the House floor, saying that "Anybody that reads the paper should know, especially those that live on the border, should know that there are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States." From Roll Call:
Steve King insisted again Thursday that undocumented immigrant children are often drug mules who carry illegal substances across the border from Mexico, but this time he did it on the House floor.
Despite a firestorm of criticism -- including another rebuke from Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday morning -- the Iowa Republican defended his comments last week that such children have "calves the size of cantaloupes" as a result of carrying drugs across the border.
"I can tell you that in Mexico they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers," King said Thursday afternoon to an empty House chamber. "Every night some come across the border smuggling drugs across the border. Increasingly the higher value drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine in some form or another, are being strapped to the body -- sometimes of young girls, teenage girls. The media is replete with this. Anybody that reads the paper should know, especially those that live on the border, should know that there are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States." [Roll Call, 7/25/13]
Fox News Has Whitewashed King's Anti-Immigrant Comments
Fox News Has Given King Nearly An Hour Of Airtime This Year But Has Ignored His Comments. According to a Media Matters review, in total, Fox News has hosted King seven times this year for a total of at least 50 minutes of airtime to talk about the political stories of the day. However, since July 21 when news of his comments about undocumented youths broke, he has not appeared on Fox. He was last hosted on July 18 for a little over 10 minutes on Hannity to discuss the Trayvon Martin murder case. He also appeared on the July 14 edition of Fox News Sunday for more than 12 minutes to discuss the Martin case and immigration issues.
Fox News Has Repeatedly Discussed Immigration This Week But Has Ignored King's Remarks. According to a Media Matters review, Fox News has discussed or mentioned immigration or related issues on 11 different shows this week for at least 19 minutes, with the bulk of coverage (more than 12 minutes) devoted to allegations of wrongdoing by Alejandro Mayorkas, the Obama administration's nominee for Department of Homeland Security deputy secretary. However, not once has King's anti-immigrant remarks been mentioned.
[The Washington Post, 7/25/13]
CNN, MSNBC Have Covered King's Anti-Immigrant Comments
CNN Hosted King To Discuss Anti-Immigrant Comments. In a nearly 10-minute interview on July 24, CNN's Wolf Blitzer sat down with King to talk about his comments, asking him whether he wished to "revise and amend" them. King replied, "Well, of course, I wouldn't revise and amend." The exchange continued:
BLITZER: So for every valedictorian, who's a DREAMer, as they call them, there's what 100 out there who are smuggling drugs? Is that what you're saying?
KING: Wolf, yes. And, you know, you only get one valedictorian per class per year. And they aren't all DREAMers. And a lot of other American kids out here that are competing for that valedictorian status.
But every night, there are dozens and scores of people that are smuggling drugs across our border. I've been down there multiple times. I've sat along the border at night. I've traveled with the Border Patrol for days on end. I've sat out on a ranch house out in the desert and had the Border Patrol or helicopter pilots come to me one at a time in a clandestine setting, tell me their narratives.
This isn't something that just was made up out of thin air. This is something I get from the people enforcing the law down on the border. I've seen it with my eyes. I've unloaded the illegal drugs with my hands. And I've dealt with the people that are enforcing the law. And I've watched the data and the videos that support what I say.
And the longer this dialogue goes, the more the American people are going to understand what I'm saying is factually correct. It's probably understated. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 7/24/13]
CNN, MSNBC Have Combined For Nearly An Hour And A Half Of Coverage Of King's Comments. According to a Media Matters review, since July 21, CNN and MSNBC have combined for at least an hour and 31 minutes of coverage of King's anti-immigrant comments. Including Blitzer's interview, CNN devoted almost 16 minutes to his comments, with MSNBC's coverage totaling at least an hour and 15 minutes.
Congressional Republicans Have Condemned King's Anti-Immigrant Comments
House Speaker John Boehner: "There Can Be Honest Disagreements About Policy Without Using Hateful Language." As NBC News reported, House Speaker John Boehner condemned King's comments as "hateful," reportedly saying, "What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that." [NBC News, 7/23/13]
Boehner: "There's No Place In This Debate For Hateful Or Ignorant Comments From Elected Officials." On July 25, Boehner again condemned King's comments, reportedly saying, "There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials." From the Associated Press:
Boehner already had issued a written statement earlier in the week condemning King's remarks, but at his weekly news conference, he ramped up his criticism even without being asked. The Ohio Republican took the unusual step of calling King out by name, dramatizing the concern among GOP leaders that incendiary comments from the right can tarnish the party's image even as lawmakers struggle to find a solution to the immigration debate.
"I want to be clear. There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials," Boehner said.
"What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party," the speaker said, "and we all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way."
Boehner also said that King's comments made grappling with immigration legislation more difficult, "but I'm going to continue to work with members who want to get to a solution, as opposed to those who want to do nothing." [Associated Press, 7/25/13]
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Called King's Comments "Inexcusable." The Hill reported that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized King for his comments, saying, "I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable." [The Hill, 7/24/13]
Rep. Raul Labrador Called King's Comments "Irresponsible And Reprehensible." According to The Washington Post, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) also repudiated King's comments, calling them "irresponsible and reprehensible":
On Wednesday, Rep. Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho), who was born in Puerto Rico, called King's remarks, made last Thursday, "irresponsible and reprehensible."
"What he said was out of touch with the conference. There's nobody in the conference who would say such a thing, and I hope that he, if he thought about it, he wouldn't say such a thing again," added Labrador, who spent months working with seven House colleagues on a comprehensive immigration reform bill before dropping out of the stalled effort last month. [The Washington Post, 7/24/13]
Rep. Trey Gowdy Denounced Comments As "Reprehensible." As The Hill reported, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) called King's comments "reprehensible":
After the hearing, Gowdy, who chairs the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee, called King's comments to Newsmax "reprehensible."
Gowdy also took offense at King's criticism during the hearing of the South Carolinian's own comments about needing a permanent immigration law solution.
"Did you hear his five minutes?" Gowdy asked a scrum of reporters about King's statement. "He took one line from my opening statement about a remedy that lasts a lifetime and lectures me about the rule of law. I was a prosecutor for 15 years."
When asked how Republicans, particularly those in leadership, can reach out to members like King and implore them to keep inflamatory rhetoric at bay, Gowdy said flatly, "You can't."
And while King has said he has the muscle to sink any piecemeal immigration bill, Gowdy scoffed.
"The number of people who have a Steve King precise ideology on immigration isn't going to be sufficient to sink anything." [Roll Call, 7/23/13]
Rep. Ted Poe: "Such Inflammatory And Hateful Comments Are Out Of Touch With Reality." Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) condemned King's remarks as "inflammatory" and "hateful," writing on his Twitter feed: "Such inflammatory and hateful comments are out of touch with reality and do nothing to fix our broken system":
Rep. Pete Olson: "King Does Not Speak For The Heart Of The Republican Party." The Houston Chronicle reported that Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) rejected King's characterization of undocumented immigrants and called on King to apologize for his comments. Olson reportedly stated: "These comments have little to do with the debate on immigration and only reflect the congressman's ill-informed viewpoint. ... Broadly impugning the character of a whole class of people only signals ignorance of the issues facing us as we tackle immigration reform." Olson reportedly added:
Congressman Steve King does not speak for the heart of the Republican Party anymore than he speaks for me. I would hope Congressman King understands the ignorance and hurtfulness of his comments, apologizes now and thinks before he speaks in the future. [The Houston Chronicle, 7/24/13]
Media Matters searched all Fox News shows since January 1, 2013, until 5 p.m. ET on July 25 for Steve King guest appearances on the network. For coverage of immigration issues and of King's comments specifically, Media Matters searched the Nexis database, as well as our extensive internal archives, for mentions of immigration or Steve King on all CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News shows from July 21 at 5 a.m. ET to July 25 at 5 p.m. ET.
Researcher Salvatore Colleluori and research intern Charles Rafkin contributed to this report. Media Matters graphics by Albert Kleine.
UPDATE: This post has been updated for accuracy.