Media figures attacked Mexican-flag-wavers, but not those waving Irish, Italian, or Israeli flags

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Following recent demonstrations in which protesters marched against proposed legislation that would criminalize undocumented workers, some in the media have criticized the demonstrators for carrying Mexican flags. But these same media figures have not complained about people waving other nations' flags, such as Irish flags at St. Patrick's Day events, Italian flags at Columbus Day events, or Israeli flags at Israel Day events.

Following the recent demonstrations throughout the United States in which protesters marched against proposed legislation that would criminalize undocumented workers, some in the media have criticized the demonstrators for carrying Mexican flags. But these same media figures have not complained about people waving other nations' flags, such as Irish flags at St. Patrick's Day events, Italian flags at Columbus Day events, or Israeli flags at Israel Day events.

For example, on the March 29 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor Robert D. Novak asked:

NOVAK: Where did all these flags come from? Do the young Latinos keep the Mexican flags in their homes?

[...]

I am no hard-liner on immigration who wants to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, but flags are a symbol of national identity. The student brandishing the Mexican flag signals divided loyalty or perhaps loyalty to a foreign power.

Similarly, on the March 29 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Bill O'Reilly cited the Mexican flags as evidence of an emerging "race war" in the United States:

O'REILLY: You have no policy unless you have border security. There's no policy. All the other stuff doesn't matter. Because you just cannot keep assimilating millions of people in here at the rate they're coming without unintended consequences. And you've got them all day long.

So now, it's becoming a race war. That's what it's becoming -- a race war. You see half a million people show up in L.A. and they were waving Mexican flags. And they're saying, "Hey, we have a right to be here." No, you don't. If you're illegal, you don't have a right to be here. But they don't see it that way.

In addition to Novak and O'Reilly, the following media figures have also criticized those who waved Mexican flags at the recent protests without criticizing similar flag-waving on behalf of other nations:

  • Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes stated on the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume that "a lot of illegal immigrants ... waving Mexican flags, that doesn't help their cause." Barnes also stated that waving Mexican flags "just alienates Americans and will only further anger the anti-immigrant forces."
  • On the March 27 edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor Jack Cafferty declared: "These folks march around our streets carrying Mexican flags and complaining the United States may actually want to have some control over who comes here. Imagine that." On the March 30 edition of The Situation Room, Cafferty also stated: "Mexican demonstrators blocking southern California freeways and other streets around the country while waving the Mexican flag in the faces of U.S. citizens is probably not going to win them a lot of friends here."
  • On the March 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs asked reporter Peter Viles: "Did you have the opportunity to ask [protestors] why they are waving a Mexican flag when they are talking about U.S. rights?" Viles responded that "[o]ne woman told us, 'Yes, I am an American, but I have to stand up for my culture, and I have to support my heritage and other people with that heritage.' " Viles said the woman's statement was "[n]ot a particularly American idea when it comes to civics and politics, but it is certainly prevailing here [at the protests] in Los Angeles."
  • In a March 28 syndicated column, National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote that what makes the display of Mexican flags "ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America's laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it."
  • As Media Matters for America previously noted, National Public Radio correspondent Juan Williams stated on the March 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor: "A lot of these [protestors] are poor kids, struggling along in those schools and struggling to gain some sense of identity so they're going to wave the Mexican flag because they feel somehow they are fighting for Mexicans living in the United States. And they're even going to get into crazy arguments about whether California should truly belong to the Mexico or the United States -- all kinds of stupidity."
  • On the March 29 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Fox News' Sean Hannity stated that the actions of protestors -- including "[p]eople holding the Mexican flag up" -- "seemed to be, in many, many ways, outrageous." Hannity subsequently asked a former adviser to Mexican President Vicente Fox to "condemn some of" the protestors' actions, but did not specify which actions.
  • On the March 30 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Fox News analyst and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) stated that "the American people, frankly, when they see a huge crowd in a city carrying flags other than the U.S., I think they're pretty unimpressed, and frankly, a little bit irritated by the idea of people who are here illegally telling us they're going to blackmail our politicians into passing bad laws."
  • On the March 30 edition of Hardball, MSNBC host Chris Matthews stated that potential legal immigrants are "waiting in line somewhere at a U.S. consulate ... waiting in line dutifully. You show up every day, you fill out the papers, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait. Meanwhile, people are slam-banging across the Mexican border every night with the searchlight on, and now we're saying put them ahead of you in line."

Responding to Newsweek magazine chief political correspondent Howard Fineman's assertion that a family of legal immigrants he interviewed were "furious about the flow of immigrants coming across the border," Matthews stated that legal immigrants are "waving little American flags and the other people [coming across the border] are waving little Mexican flags, because they get in here first." When Fineman stated that "some of them [coming across the border] are waving Mexican flags," Matthews responded: "Then they get in here first."

  • On the April 2 edition of Fox News Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News anchor Brit Hume stated that the sight of "tens of thousands of people demonstrating, waving foreign flags, on behalf of illegal immigration and against the idea that America should enforce its own laws" was a "repellent spectacle." Hume added that as a result, "reasonable Americans are probably having a difficult time finding anybody to root for in this debate."

A Media Matters search* of the Nexis database revealed that of the above media figures, only Dobbs had also criticized the flying of other nations' flags. On the March 27 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs stated: "I don't think that we should have any flag flying in this country except the flag of the United States." He later added: "I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day. I don't care who you are. I think we ought to be celebrating what is common about this country, what we enjoy as similarities as people."

O'Reilly and Lowry have acknowledged -- but dismissed -- comparisons of the waving of Mexican flags at the recent protests and the flying of non-U.S. flags at celebrations of St. Patrick's Day or Columbus Day. In his March 28 column, Lowry asked: "Well, aren't there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick's Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations?" He then went on to call the Mexican flag-waving "more ominous" than the St. Patrick's Day or Columbus Day displays. Similarly, when a guest on the March 30 edition of The O'Reilly Factor asserted that protestors had raised the Mexican flag in "[e]xactly the same way [as at] the St. Patrick's Day parade," O'Reilly responded: "Come on."

While not commenting on the use of the Irish flag in St. Patrick's Day celebrations, Matthews dubbed the March 17 edition of his program "O'Hardball," bestowing Irish-sounding nicknames on two of his Hardball "Hotshots" panel guests. Matthews named MSNBC host Joe Scarborough "Joe O'Scarborough," and MSNBC contributor Ron Reagan "Ron O'Reagan." The third member of his panel, MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell, did not receive a nickname.

*(irish or italian or israeli or ireland or italy or israel) w/5 flag and (st. patrick's day or saint patrick's day or columbus day or israel day) and (rich lowry or bob novak or robert novak or chris matthews or fred barnes or bill o'reilly or sean hannity or newt gingrich or jack cafferty or lou dobbs or peter viles or brit hume or juan williams)

From the March 29 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

NOVAK: This is springtime, when young people like to go into the streets to demonstrate and cause trouble all over the world. And even 55 years ago, when I was a college student -- though in those days we went on nonpolitical panty-raids, the French students just love to disrupt everything, as they did in Paris this week, protesting the idea that their work has to satisfy their employers in order to keep their jobs.

But the half million people who demonstrated in Los Angeles last Saturday was something else. They were overwhelmingly Latinos and preponderantly young people. And this was not, not just a normal right of spring. The demonstrators were called into the streets of L.A. by the city's 10 Spanish-speaking radio stations to protest hard-line, anti-immigration legislation.

However, what really got my attention in L.A. was the omni presence of the flags of a foreign government, the Republic of Mexico. Red, white, green, Mexican flags were carried, waved, and draped about the bodies of the young people, some of whom were natural-born American citizens.

Where did all these flags come from? Do the young Latinos keep the Mexican flags in their homes? Were they distributed by somebody? These demonstrators were not grape pickers who just popped over the border. Many are students in American public schools. I am no hard-liner on immigration who wants to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, but flags are a symbol of national identity. The student brandishing the Mexican flag signals divided loyalty or perhaps loyalty to a foreign power.

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BARNES: If you double it, it would be an interesting test -- if you doubled the wages. But even then, I agree with Mort. I don't think you would get a lot of -- a lot of domestics.

I'll tell you what does not help the pro-immigration side. And that was that huge demonstration in Los Angeles yesterday where many, many people were waving Mexican flags. That just alienates Americans and will only further anger the anti-immigrant forces. Mickey Kaus, who is a blogger and a political analyst -- I think we all know him -- wrote that if you went to that demonstration, and every time you saw a Mexican flag, you said, "Mexican flag" - he said you'd be talking the whole time. There were so many of them.

Even when they were instructed, or told by the organizers of that demonstration to only bring American flags. So, you have a lot of illegal immigrants there waving Mexican flags, that doesn't help their cause.

From the March 27 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

CAFFERTY: The problem is completely out of control, and it's getting worse every day. What do the politicians want to do about it? Why they want to pass more laws, of course. You see, it's an election year, so they want us to think that they're actually doing something about illegal immigrants.

One wants a guest worker program. Somebody else wants to close the borders. Another one wants to make illegal immigration a felony. Meanwhile, the streets of many of our cities are clogged with people protesting immigration reform. These folks march around our streets carrying Mexican flags and complaining the United States may actually want to have some control over who comes here. Imagine that.

And at the end of the day, it's very much an open question whether anything meaningful will get done. If I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath. Here is the question. What do you think should happen to illegal immigrants? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Wolf?

From the March 30 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

CAFFERTY: The Mexican flag has become a source of irritation to a lot of Americans during the immigration debate that's heating up in this country. Carried as a source of pride by demonstrators, the idea could backfire.

You see, this isn't Mexico.

Mexican demonstrators blocking southern California freeways and other streets around the country while waving the Mexican flag in the faces of U.S. citizens is probably not going to win them a lot of friends here.

From the March 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, which featured Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza:

DOBBS: As you were just speaking, Pete, a young man with enthusiasm waving the Mexican flag behind you. Did you have the opportunity to ask them why they are waving a Mexican flag when they are talking about U.S. rights?

VILES: Well, not these fellows here, but we have asked others why the flag of Mexican -- Mexico and the flags of Guatemala and other nations. One woman told us, "Yes, I am an American, but I have to stand up for my culture, and I have to support my heritage and other people with that heritage."

Not a particularly American idea when it comes to civics and politics, but it is certainly prevailing here in Los Angeles.

[...]

DOBBS: Why are all those demonstrators out there carrying Mexican flags?

MURGUIA: Well there's a sense of pride with anybody. We just had St. Patrick's Day. Are you saying that Irish, because they're holding up their Irish flags, that all of a sudden they're not loyal or they're un-American? It's a double standard to say that people from one country can wave their flag, but people who want to be Americans can wave another flag, but they're not being loyal. That's a double standard. Irish Americans --

DOBBS: -- are you accusing me of a double standard?

MURGUIA: Well, I'm just saying. You ought to be --

DOBBS: Because I want you to look me in the eye, and I want you to hear me loud and clear.

MURGUIA: Yes, I'm right here.

DOBBS: OK. Are you ready to listen to me loud and clear?

MURGUIA: I'm here.

DOBBS: I don't think that we should have any flag flying in this country except the flag of the United States. And let me tell you something else, since we're talking about double standards, and I think you're right about people who would believe that.

But, let's be clear. I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day. I don't care who you are. I think we ought to be celebrating what is common about this country, what we enjoy as similarities as people, and as Peter Viles was reporting, talking about the culture and the heritage of their people, and that's why they want to hold up the Mexican flag or Ecuadorian flag.

From the March 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story: the consequences of rampant illegal immigration. With about 12 million illegals already here, and about 75 percent of them Hispanic and millions more on the way, what will America look like 10 years from now? Joining us now from Washington with analysis on that is Juan Williams.

Before I get to that bigger picture, what did you think when you watched the Los Angeles demonstrations particularly, and you saw these kids holding the Mexican flags? What -- what did you think about that?

WILLIAMS: Well, these kids don't know anything. I mean, all the kids are doing is looking for identity. I think these -- a lot of these are poor kids, struggling along in those schools and struggling to gain some sense of identity, so they're going to wave the Mexican flag because they feel somehow they are fighting for Mexicans living in the United States. And they're even going to get into crazy arguments about whether California should truly belong to the Mexico or the United States -- all kinds of stupidity.

But those are kids, Bill. I mean, kids who are -- I mean, they used kids during the civil rights era as demonstrators. The kids know nothing, but at their heart, they feel like they're giving a voice to their uncles, their aunties, you know, some people who are illegal in this country who may never have a voice against the Minutemen and the far right wing that wants to throw everybody out.

From the March 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: No, no, I think [former President Ronald] Reagan made a mistake, one of the mistakes, because he's my favorite president. But, look, I'm saying, at this point, if we allow people to stay that came here illegally and jumped in front of the line, then we're telling other people to do the same.

Here's what I don't like. I didn't like a lot of these signs. "This is you -- this is stolen land, America." "This is our continent, not yours." If you disagree with the idea of amnesty, you're a racist or anti-immigrant. People holding the Mexican flag up. It seemed to be, in many, many ways, outrages, some of the things that were said and done. Do you agree with that?

HERNANDEZ: In any parade and in any group of people, you can highlight, of course, someone who is maybe presenting something that is not proper.

HANNITY: Do you condemn some of it? Do you condemn?

HERNANDEZ: Oh, I think -- let me put it this way. I think that it would be much better if they were all holding up, yes, flags of the United States or white flags. But let's remember that this has appeared in a very natural way. There's no one leader.

From the March 30 edition of Hannity & Colmes:

GINGRICH: Look -- look, overwhelmingly, the American people want the border controlled, including most first-generation immigrants. Overwhelmingly, the American people believe we should cut off all U.S. aid to cities that refuse to enforce immigration law, and that this is overwhelming numbers.

Overwhelmingly, the American people are in favor of honest, legal immigration, an open door for people who obey the law and want to become American.

But the American people, frankly, when they see a huge crowd in a city carrying flags other than the U.S., I think they're pretty unimpressed, and frankly, a little bit irritated by the idea of people who are here illegally telling us they're going to blackmail our politicians into passing bad laws.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, look at the things that have been said by a lot of people: this is our continent, not yours, etc., etc. This is stolen land. There's been a lot of Americans upset that, you know, it's not the American --

GINGRICH: You remember, because you were deeply involved in this, the high school in Northern California --

HANNITY: Right.

GINGRICH: -- that didn't want to let the students have their picture made with the American flag...

HANNITY: Right.

GINGRICH: -- because the American flag was divisive? I think this is an issue where we have to have the courage to look every American in the eye and say, "If you want to become an American, if you want to obey the law, if you want to work and pay taxes, this is still the country of the Statue of Liberty. Don't break the law and then blackmail us."

From the April 2 edition of Fox News Co.'s Fox News Sunday, guest-hosted by Chris Wallace:

HUME: Especially, Chris, because reasonable Americans are probably having a difficult time finding anybody to root for in this debate. On the one hand, you have, you know, tens of thousands of people demonstrating, waving foreign flags, on behalf of illegal immigration and against the idea that America should enforce its own laws. What a repellent spectacle.

On the other hand, you have the behavior of some of these House Republicans, like the one you -- you just -- you just showed on the screen, Congressman [Peter] King [R-NY], speaking of the guest worker program as if it were amnesty, and acting as if anybody from south of the border is unwelcome here.

From the March 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: By the way, if you're a European trying to come to America and move here, or an African, West African, and you're waiting in line somewhere at a U.S. consulate nowhere, whether it's Albania or Nigeria, you're waiting in line dutifully. You show up every day, you fill out the papers, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait.

Meanwhile, people are slam-banging across the Mexican border every night with the searchlight on, and now we're saying put them ahead of you in line.

FINEMAN: I'll give you a good story about that. I was talking -- you know, the Capitol is full of tourists right now. It's spring, it's beautiful, the cherry blossoms. The Capitol is full of people, a lot of them new immigrant families.

And I happened to talk to a family from San Diego, who were American citizens. They were from Egypt originally. The guy is a Ph.D. from MIT, lives in San Diego. He and his wife are furious about the flow of immigrants coming across the border. Even though they built a fence down in San Diego, it's not enough to stop them.

MATTHEWS: So, they're waving little American flags and the other people are waving little Mexican flags, because they get in here first.

FINEMAN: Well, some of them are waving Mexican flags.

MATTHEWS: Then they get in here first.

From the March 30 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, which featured conservative columnist Michelle Malkin and University of California-Los Angeles professor Raul Hinojosa:

O'REILLY: What about seeing the Mexican flag there, Doctor? What about seeing that? What did that mean?

HINOJOSA: You know, it's not about the Mexican -- the Mexican flag for people represents pride in a long struggle. You know what? It's not -- if you don't attack them as being Mexicans, which is unfortunately how this show is now defining this, then you're going to get people saying, "Wait a second. Don't attack my heritage, all right?" And that's unfortunately where the debate has -- has come down tow.

O'REILLY: I don't want to -- we're not attacking anybody's heritage. I want to know in what context, and this is absolutely a legitimate question, in what context was the Mexican flag raised in that demonstration?

HINOJOSA: Exactly the same way the St. Patrick's Day parade and the Italian --

O'REILLY: Come on. Come on.

HINOJOSA: Raise the green -- it is. It's a pride issue. It's a pride issue about going forward -- they want to be with an American flag at the same time, Bill. That's the key thing.

O'REILLY: All right. Michelle what do you...

HINOJOSA: And your show should be very important to make that point. This is an issue about wanting to be --

O'REILLY: We are -- we are going to be --

HINOJOSA: -- a part of America.

O'REILLY: We are going to be as fair as humanly possible here on this whole issue. But what did the Mexican flag say to you, Michelle?

MALKIN: Well, first of all, do not buy Doctor Hinojosa's spin. He sounds very reasonable. He sounds very benign, but the kind of, quote unquote, "pride" that a lot of these illegal alien activists are touting now goes much further than just being proud about one's heritage and one's roots. The idea -- the intellectual underpinnings of Reconquista are embraced by the vast majority of mainstream Hispanic politicians, as well as the international --

O'REILLY: How do you know that, Michelle? How do you know that?

MALKIN: Because I've read -- because I've read the history. And look at it -- can I --

HINOJOSA: Not true.

MALKIN: May I -- may I just say Doctor --

O'REILLY: Go ahead. Go ahead. I'll give you a chance, Doctor. Go ahead. Go ahead, Michelle.

From the March 17 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Tonight, a Republican Congress versus a Republican president. Why the conflict? Why the anger? What's changed? Let's take it to the Hardball "Hotshots." Happy St. Patty's Day. Let's play O'Hardball.

Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews, and welcome to the St. Patty's Day edition of Hardball.

President Bush marked the holiday today, when everybody is a little Irish, at the White House. But the front page of The Washington Post might have the president and his senior staff hoping for a little luck of the Irish, as bad polls for the president, his Republican Congress, and the Iraq war continue to weigh down their agenda.

Tension has been growing among Republicans, and the failed Dubai ports deal brought it to a head. Will the tension be worse by November? All that tonight, and with a little Irish luck, the Hardball Hotshots will be here: Norah O'Donnell, Joe O'Scarborough, and Ron O'Reagan.


New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Source


New York City Columbus Day Parade. Source


New York City Israel Day Parade. Source

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.