Fox News illustrates segments on serious issue of crime in Mexico with footage of bikini-clad women

››› ››› LILY YAN

Fox News has once again engaged in its longstanding practice of airing gratuitous footage of scantily clad women -- this time in its coverage of the grim issue of drug cartel-related violence in Mexico. In segments raising the question of whether Mexico is no longer safe for college spring break trips -- a proposition challenged by some guests -- footage of young women in bikinis aired on Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and The O'Reilly Factor.

Since the State Department issued a February 20 travel alert regarding the increase of drug cartel-related violence in Mexico, Fox News has run several segments questioning whether Cancun and other Mexican resort cities are safe destinations for college students on spring break. Segments on Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and The O'Reilly Factor featured gratuitous video footage of young women in bikinis, continuing a pattern on Fox News of exploiting any opportunity to show scantily clad women, regardless of the seriousness of the issue being covered.

The guests in some segments disputed the notion that college students should not go to Mexico on spring break. Indeed, the State Department has put out a video advising college students to "Have Fun/Stay Safe" on spring break, with travel tips for students vacationing in Mexico.

During the March 12 edition of Hannity, after host Sean Hannity noted "the very real danger posed by Mexico's violent drug cartels," he aired prolonged footage of bikini-clad young women partying in Mexico during a panel discussion about the problem. Similarly, during a discussion of the problem on the March 11 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren aired video footage of women in bikinis partying. Alex Kingsburg, associate editor of U.S. News & World Report, told Van Susteren: "Things are pretty bad and they're getting worse, and the people that I speak with say that they expect it to get worse in the near future. ... It got bad, it got very bad last year -- 6,000 people killed." As Kingsburg was adding that "it's been 1,000 people since January," Van Susteren aired footage featuring images such as this:

In addition, during the March 3 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, while host Bill O'Reilly discussed the issue with Pauline Frommer of Frommer's travel guides, he repeatedly aired footage of bikini-clad women, with the caption "Spring Break Warning." A teaser for the segment included videos with images such as these:

During the segment, O'Reilly repeatedly stated, "I would not send my kids or allow them to go to Mexico on spring break." Frommer responded by saying that despite the increase in violence in Mexico, "there are safe areas." After Frommer stated that "partying" is "one of the reasons kids get into problems in Mexico and Daytona Beach and Jamaica," the following exchange took place:

O'REILLY: [A]re you telling me that Cancun and Daytona Beach are equivalent? You don't think it's --

FROMMER: In terms of safety?

O'REILLY: Yes.

FROMMER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Oh, man. Are you kidding?

FROMMER: I am not kidding you. Look at -- if you look at the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula --

O'REILLY: Yeah.

FROMMER: -- Merida, you are 10 times less likely to be a victim of crime there than you are in Washington, D.C.

O'REILLY: You know, the Mexican government should hire you.

Similarly, during the March 10 edition of his show, O'Reilly discussed the issue with Joachim Bamrud, editor-in-chief of the Latin Business Chronicle, who objected to how O'Reilly presented the problem of violence in his March 3 report. During the segment, which included gratuitous video footage of scantily clad young women partying, Bamrud said that "basically, the biggest danger that American spring breakers face when they go to Mexico is that they drink too much, not that they're going to encounter violent drug traffickers." He continued: "And so my criticism is that you urged all Americans to not travel anywhere in Mexico. And the fact is destinations like Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta are perfectly safe." O'Reilly responded that "I did not urge all Americans not to go there. I said I wouldn't let my college kids go. OK, that's No. 1, so be accurate when you're putting words in my mouth." After Bamrud continued to assert that Mexico was safe, O'Reilly stated: "I don't believe it -- I don't believe it for a second that it's perfectly safe for them. I think they are taking a risk. It's like going to Aruba. Am I going to send my kid to Aruba after what happened to the [Natalee] Holloway kid? No, I'm not."

The teases for O'Reilly's March 10 segment included videos with images such as this:

From the March 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: It's almost time for spring break. Headed south of the border for some fun in the sun? Well, maybe not this year.

[...]

HANNITY: And later: The surging violence in Mexico has some college students reconsidering their spring break plans. Moms and dads, do not let your kids go to Mexico for spring break. I will explain all coming up straight ahead.

[...]

HANNITY: And spring break in Mexico, speaking of which, why it's becoming a deadly destination, and why you shouldn't send your kids. And the "Hate Hannity Hotline," coming up.

[...]

HANNITY: There is a new and growing concern for parents who are sending their kids off to spring break. Only this time, it is not related to the dangers of binge drinking, but to the very real danger posed by Mexico's violent drug cartels.

Now, here's a look at what every parent needs to know before their child heads south of the border.

[begin video clip]

HANNITY: Spring break. It's a time-honored tradition for college students nationwide. But there is a new warning tonight for students and parents, specifically of those looking to let loose south of the border.

Mexico has long been a spring break favorite, with party-hearty cities like Cancún, Cozumel, and Acapulco.

But beyond the fruity drinks, packed clubs, and the sandy beaches lies the gritty backdrop of drug violence that has exploded over the last two years and is now threatening the lives of tourists.

There were more than 6,000 drug-related murders in Mexico last year, and cartels are dumping decapitated bodies in the streets every single day. Just last month, a retired general hired to dismantle the cartels running rampant in Cancún was kidnapped and brutally tortured. His body was left on the side of the road.

With the violence out of control, some in the Mexican government feared the brazen drug-runners might start singling out tourists, much like terrorists have done in Bali and Mumbai.

The State Department has issued a travel warning, urging Americans to use caution when traveling there. So as the annual migration of party-seeking students begins, parents have one more safety concern, and spring-breakers have one more reason to keep vigilant.

[end video clip]

HANNITY: And joining us now is Fox News anchor and analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Fox News correspondent Courtney Friel.

Guys, good to see you. All right, any parent -- this is my take on this. We have literally 100,000-man armies in these drug cartels -- any parent that sends their kid or allows their kid to go to Mexico on spring break I think is nuts. Agree?

FRIEL: Well, actually, the good news is I randomly Googled a couple travel agents and called them up. And they said that there is no interest anymore in Mexico, and those that have had trips planned canceled them. And they're not trying to encourage people to go.

HANNITY: Yeah, but there are still some parents that are not getting this.

GUILFOYLE: There are still people going. They're not getting it.

HANNITY: There are still kids going.

FRIEL: Oh yeah, [inaudible].

GUILFOYLE: They're not getting it. Don't let your children go. You will be sorry if you do. I'm telling you. Why would you want to take that kind of risk, and put your child in that kind of danger? Even in Cancún -- sure, there's fabulous resorts there like the Ritz Carlton, et cetera. That's not where they're going to, like, spring break. And there's drug cartels operating there, people have been murdered. It's all over Mexico.

HANNITY: There's a movie out, and I forget the name of it. Liam Nielsen [sic: Neeson] is in it right now, where his daughter is abducted when she travels abroad. And I would be like him, except I'm not as, you know, talented in beating people up.

But any time your child leaves the country, there's a risk, isn't there?

GUILFOYLE: Look at Aruba.

HANNITY: Look at Aruba.

GUILFOYLE: Natalee Holloway.

HANNITY: That's a great point.

GUILFOYLE: There is a risk. And you know what? During this economic -- we're having this hardship in this country. How about buy American, travel American? This is an amazing country. Why not you and your family, with your children, take a trip, see a part of the country that you haven't seen.

HANNITY: Go to Vegas. Vegas is suffering.

GUILFOYLE: Spend your dollars here. Is that such a bad idea, Sean?

HANNITY: I know you know Vegas. So --

FRIEL: I do, and there's great deals right now. But another destination that people are going to is Palm Springs. The biggest travel agency on the West Coast had 50 different colleges connected on this trip that they were taking to Baja California. They canceled the trip, and now they're going to Palm Springs. So, you know, schools --

GUILFOYLE: That's a good idea.

FRIEL: -- schools are canceling the trips.

HANNITY: All right. What about -- putting aside the drug cartels -- parents, if you send your kids to Mexico or allow them to go, remember you're in charge. You can say no. I know that's not a word we're used to anymore.

But, putting that aside, I don't get this. And believe me, I did a lot of dumb things when I was young. Probably more than both of you put together, just for the record. But they take these funnels, and they literally are sucking down 12 beers at one time, you know, passing out unconscience -- unconscious. I don't get the fun in that. Help me out here. Why is that so common, these drinking games and all that?

GUILFOYLE: Yeah, ask Courtney.

FRIEL: No, I just told you -- I drank vodka, not beer. But listen, it's not just kids going over the border. I lived in Ti -- no, Tijuana -- I lived in San Diego for a couple years. I've been to Tijuana, like, 30 times. I used to bring my friends down there.

But also grandparents would go over there to get their prescriptions cheaper.

HANNITY: That's true.

FRIEL: My husband would get his dog medications cheaper there. And people just have to be really concerned --

HANNITY: They have to be.

FRIEL: -- because you can get in the way of crossfire.

HANNITY: [Inaudible] Last word?

GUILFOYLE: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a lot of other alternatives that are safe, that are prudent, that also support the American economy now. And you should choose that; choose wisely for your children.

HANNITY: All right, guys. Good.

From the March 11 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: And before you make your spring break plans in Mexico, or before you let your kids head south, listen to this. Any American crossing the border could be in danger of losing his or her life. That's coming up, a warning.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: And up next, a spring break warning. Anyone going to Mexico or anyone sending his or her child south of the border must hear these warnings, coming up.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: Warning: If you or a family member is planning a trip to Mexico, listen to this report. Anyone traveling south of the border could be putting his or her life apparently in danger. One thousand have been killed so far this year alone in Mexico. Violence has increased sharply. The State Department has now issued a travel warning for Mexico.

Joining us live is Alex Kingsbury, associate editor covering national security for U.S. News & World Report. Alex, how bad is it in Mexico?

KINGSBURY: Things are pretty bad and they're getting worse, and the people that I speak with say that they expect it to get worse in the near future. So this is a problem that's ramped up since 2006. It got bad -- it got very bad last year -- 6,000 people killed. And, as you mentioned, it's been 1,000 people since January.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this drug cartel violence?

KINGSBURY: This is drug cartel violence. This is essentially the Mexican government has decided to go after all these drug cartels simultaneously, and it's a war against all. So the cartels are fighting each other. They are fighting the Mexican state. The Mexican state is fighting its own corrupt officials and the drug cartels as well, and anyone who gets caught in between.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was going to say, that's where I go -- anyone caught in between, that's where the Americans come into it. Is this in typically the spring break areas, the Cancun, the places people where young people go or even older people go to celebrate the sun and the sand and the ocean?

KINGSBURY: Sure, sure. Tourism is a huge part of the Mexican economy. In the past, the cartels have agreed to a sort of truce around specific places -- Acapulco, Cancun, places like that -- to keep the tourism alive and keep the violence separate. That truce appears to no longer exist, though the violence has stayed out of those touristy areas. There was a very famous general, a Mexican general, one of the highest ranking and most well-known generals in Mexico was executed on the streets by the cartels in Cancun. And now the police chief in Cancun has been arrested in connection with that case, so --

VAN SUSTEREN: The police chief?

KINGSBURY: The police chief, yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we hear these horrible stories about heads being delivered, that they find heads.

KINGSBURY: Stuck on fence posts outside of police stations. I mean, the violence is really quite grisly and quite brutal.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I read one of your reports that former CIA director George Tenet had some advice, or at least a prohibition for his child.

KINGSBURY: He did. He sent an email to his son that said, you know, maybe you should reconsider your travel plans to another place. And his son did that. I mean, the problem, obviously, is that so much of the Mexican economy depends on tourism. If tourism goes down, the lure of these cartels becomes all the more powerful. So it can be -- get into a bit of a vicious cycle.

VAN SUSTEREN: The State Department has now issued a warning. You know, we see these warnings often for a lot of countries. I mean, but for Mexico, it seems extraordinary.

KINGSBURY: And you have to consider, the State Department is a diplomatic organ, and they're very careful with the words that they choose when describing whether or not to visit a certain place. And the language on Mexico has been quite stark. And there have been a series of these reports now, and they say that the violence in Mexico is equivalent to small-unit combat, you know, military combat. And that's pretty stark language.

There are variants of the AK-47, .50-caliber sniper rifles that will go through the engine block of a car, hand grenades. I mean, these are some serious, serious people. This is a $25 billion business for the cartels. This is an insurgency we're funding -- Americans are funding this -- and they don't want to give it up. So the cartels are fighting for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Funding it in that we are users of the drugs.

KINGSBURY: Every time you buy a dime bag or do a shot of coke, you know, that money goes down to these cartels.

VAN SUSTEREN: Americans get caught yet in the violence?

KINGSBURY: A few dozen, but overwhelmingly the violence has been directed against other members of the cartels and the security services.

VAN SUSTEREN: Alex, thank you.

KINGSBURY: Only incidentally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Grim. Thank you.

From the March 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: And American college students being warned not to travel to Mexico on spring break. Too much violence there. We'll have details.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE [video clip]: What happens in Cabo stays in Cabo.

[...]

O'RELLY: And later on The Factor, American students warned not to travel to Mexico for spring break. Too much violence. Right back.

[...]

O'REILLY: But next, thousands of American college kids usually head to Mexico for spring break. This year, State Department says it's too dangerous. We hope you stay tuned for those reports.

[...]

O'REILLY: Factor follow-up segment tonight: As we've been reporting, Mexico is at war with the drug cartels. About 8,000 people have been killed in the last two years down in Mexico, more than in Afghanistan. So the State Department is warning Americans to travel to Mexico could be dangerous. And with spring break coming up, that means thousands of college kids will have to make a decision.

With us now, Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer travel guidebooks. And she has one to Cancun -- there it is right there. You know, I respect President Calderon's attempt to try to get these drug cartels under control. I think he's a brave man, the president.

FROMMER: Yes. Absolutely.

O'REILLY: I'm with him. I hope President Obama helps him any way he can. I really appeal to the U.S. government to help President Calderon. I would not send my kids or allow them to go to Mexico on spring break.

FROMMER: Anywhere in Mexico?

O'REILLY: Anywhere. Not crossing the border. Particularly when you have Florida, when you have the Caribbean, when you have other alternatives that are much safer. Same sun, same water.

FROMMER: But not the same prices. The Mexican currency has crashed recently. A year ago you were getting 9 to 10 pesos to the dollar. Now you're getting 15. So you can buy a lot more, which means --

O'REILLY: A lot of thugs down there, and the police are not going to protect you in Mexico.

FROMMER: But you've got to -- you've got to realize that Mexico is a very big country, and --

O'REILLY: But the kids go to the resorts.

FROMMER: -- 50 percent of the violence is in the state of Chihuahua, which is in the northern Mexico and the border region.

O'REILLY: I got that. But the kids go to the resorts.

FROMMER: Yes.

O'REILLY:And the drug cartels own many of the nightclubs in the resorts. They go there --

FROMMER: Which is why it's safer.

O'REILLY: Well, you may say it's safer, but I don't want my kid going into Baby O's or whatever it is, owned by some cocaine baron, all right?

FROMMER: Well, I --

O'REILLY: So I'm saying to my kid, no way you're going to Mexico. It ain't -- it's not a good place right now. And I would stand by that. So you know -- you say no?

FROMMER: I think that you are -- you're looking at too much in black and white. Would you tell someone not to go to New York City because there are murders in Detroit? It's a very --

O'REILLY: New York City is a safe city.

FROMMER: It's a very safe -- and there are safe areas. Cancun is safe --

O'REILLY: Would I tell somebody to go to downtown Detroit and walk around? No. If my kid said, "Look, I'm going to do an all-nighter and I'm going skateboarding downtown in Detroit," I'm going, "No, you're not. You're not going there."

FROMMER: Cancun is very different from Juarez, from Tijuana, --

O'REILLY: Cancun is different --

FROMMER: -- the places where all the murders have been.

O'REILLY: But where do you think the drug guys go for spring break, OK? Where do you think they go?

FROMMER: But why do -- if they have their money there, they don't want those people to be harmed.

O'REILLY: But they're drug guys. That's what -- who they are. Do you want your kid in a nightclub hanging with -- hanging with Al Pacino and Scarface?

FROMMER: I don't have any evidence -- I don't have any evidence that these people own the clubs.

O'REILLY: Trust me. I've been there.

FROMMER: You have Marriott down there. You have the W hotels --

O'REILLY: That's the hotels.

FROMMER: -- but they have clubs in those hotels at all -- I don't know where you're getting this from, Bill.

O'REILLY: Pauline -- Pauline -- where am I getting it? I've been there. I've been to every single resort in Mexico.

FROMMER: I've been there too.

O'REILLY: The hotels are safe. If you go out of the hotels and party in the clubs, you're going into organized crime right there with a terrible element.

FROMMER: Look, you're right about the partying. The partying is a problem --

O'REILLY: And the police are not going to help you.

FROMMER: It's a partying -- it's a problem in Daytona Beach. One of the reasons kids get into problems in Mexico --

O'REILLY: Are you are sitting there telling me --

FROMMER: -- and Daytona Beach and Jamaica and other --

O'REILLY: -- are you telling me that Cancun and Daytona Beach are equivalent? You don't think it's --

FROMMER: In terms of safety?

O'REILLY: Yeah.

FROMMER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Oh, man. Are you kidding?

FROMMER: I am not kidding you. Look at -- if you look at the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula --

O'REILLY: Yeah.

FROMMER: -- Merida, you are 10 times less likely to be a victim of crime there than you are in Washington, D.C.

O'REILLY: You know, the Mexican government should hire you.

FROMMER: [unintelligible] the black and white.

O'REILLY: They should hire you. I'm not buying it.

FROMMER: I would not go to the border regions of Mexico. You're right. They are very dangerous. But it's a big country.

O'REILLY: I'm going to Florida or the Caribbean. No Mexico for me. But again, I know that's tough. Eighteen million Americans go to -- went to Mexico last year.

FROMMER: And the vast majority were fine.

O'REILLY: We don't want -- the vast majority were, but the country is pretty much out of control. Pauline, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

FROMMER: We disagree.

O'REILLY: We do, but it was a great discussion.

FROMMER: Thank you.

O'REILLY: I'll let you folks make up their own mind.

From the March 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Some Mexican officials are angry with The Factor for warning college students about spring break danger down there. We'll have an update.

[...]

O'REILLY: Factor follow-up segment tonight: Last week, I warned college kids that spring breaking in Mexico might be a dangerous deal because of the drug war down there and police corruption all over the country. Well, we received tons of mail from south of the border. So we decided to take another look. Joining us now from Miami, Joachim Bamrud, editor-in-chief of the Latin Business Chronicle website.

So you have a beef with me, Mr. Bamrud. What is that?

BAMRUD: That's right. Because basically, the biggest danger that American spring breakers face when they go to Mexico is that they drink too much, not that they're going to encounter violent drug traffickers. And so my criticism is that you urged all Americans to not travel anywhere in Mexico. And the fact is destinations like Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta are perfectly safe. And at this moment --

O'REILLY: All right, No. 1 -- No. 1, I did not urge all Americans not to go there. I said I wouldn't let my college kids go. OK, that's No. 1, so be accurate when you're putting words in my mouth. No. 2, let's take Cancun, for example. You know what happened to the police chief in Cancun?

BAMRUD: Yes, yes. I'm perfectly aware of that.

O'REILLY: What happened? Why don't you tell our audience what happened to him?

BAMRUD: Yes. Basically, you have a situation where both in Cancun and a lot of places, you have had some incidents. However --

O'REILLY: Well, what happened to the police chief in Cancun, sir?

BAMRUD: I don't remember exactly all the details.

O'REILLY: OK, you don't remember. Well, let me fill you in. Two weeks ago, he was removed from his position as the police chief by the federal government for allegedly covering up a murder. OK. That's the police chief of Cancun.

In Acapulco, another area you cite as being safe, six people have been found beheaded this year. Eight hundred homicides last year. Does this sound like a real safe place to you? Eight hundred homicides in the state of Guerrero where Acapulco is, six guys found on the side of the road beheaded? I don't think I want my daughter going down there, sir.

BAMRUD: No, I can see what you're saying --

O'REILLY: Thank you.

BAMRUD: -- but the fact is -- no, let's look at the statistics, Bill. Eighteen million Americans went to Mexico last year.

O'REILLY: Correct.

BAMRUD: Two million of them, more than two million went to Cancun. So we're talking statistics here. And the fact is that overall, Cancun -- and I do repeat what I said, Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta are generally safe. Why is it at this moment you have --

O'REILLY: Look, Mr. Bamrud, here's the deal. I would -- I would go -- I -- I have been to all of these places. I've been to everywhere in Mexico. I would go, OK? I'm not afraid to go. I would go. But --

BAMRUD: Right.

O'REILLY: -- I'm going to send a 19-, 20-year-old who might be drinking and partying down there? You're in Miami. They're going to go to Miami or Fort Lauderdale or Daytona or somewhere in Florida, and they can do the same stupid stuff they can do in Mexico, and there aren't beheaded people on the side of the road. So let's be honest here. If it's me, OK. If an American wants to have a nice vacation in Mexico, it's very reasonable down there now. The dollars to the peso is very good.

BAMRUD: Exactly.

O'REILLY: The Mayan Riviera is beautiful. I recommend it. But if you're going to send your teenager down there, you're nuts. You're crazy. That's not a place for them at this time in history. Go ahead.

BAMRUD: Well, right now, what has happened, we have tens of -- tens of thousands of spring breakers that have already gone, that have gone these last few months.

O'REILLY: And their parents are nuts.

BAMRUD: While the violence has happened, the images you've shown. And it's perfectly safe for them just as it will be continue to be.

O'REILLY: I don't believe it -- I don't believe it for a second that it's perfectly safe for them. I think they are taking a risk. It's like going to Aruba. Am I going to send my kid to Aruba after what happened to the Holloway kid? No, I'm not.

BAMRUD: Well, that's another example -- that's one -- one teenager it happened to. Think of all the tourists that have gone to Aruba.

O'REILLY: But it's the culture. It's the cult --

BAMRUD: Think of all the tourists that have gone to Aruba --

O'REILLY: -- look, you've been to Mexico many times, right?

BAMRUD: Yes, absolutely.

O'REILLY: OK, what's the transshipment center point on the Pacific coast for Colombian cocaine? What city? Acapulco. That's where it comes through. So you're telling me that the transshipment point for cocaine coming from Colombia, all right, Acapulco is perfectly safe for my children to go party? I'm sorry. It isn't, and that's dumb.

BAMRUD: OK, let's -- OK, let's go back to where I am, Miami. That used to be --

O'REILLY: Yeah, it used to be a hellhole.

BAMRUD: A port of entry for drugs, coming from Columbia.

O'REILLY: Absolutely, and I wouldn't let my kid go there either. Look, if my kid says to me --

BAMRUD: So you wouldn't let your kids come to Miami?

O'REILLY: No, now it's OK, but it used to be bad. If my kid comes to me and says, "I want to spring break" in any dangerous part of the United States or the world, I'm saying no, because there are plenty of alternatives that you don't have to deal with that. I'll give you the last word.

BAMRUD: Yes. I just feel that it's very irresponsible to be warning and generalizing because of some isolated incidents. The fact is --

O'REILLY: I think I was very specific in this conversation, sir.

BAMRUD: -- we're hurting Mexico. We're hurting Americans, American companies, American airlines, American hotels operating in Mexico.

O'REILLY: I've got to tell the truth, Mr. Bamrud. I understand your point. But I've got to tell the truth, and I was very specific about things on this segment. But we really appreciate you coming on in.

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