In 2014, right-wing media attacked immigrants and immigration reform by pushing baseless claims, relying on debunked research, and using misleading statistics about immigrants and the impact of immigration on the United States. Here is a look back at the most absurd anti-immigrant myths of 2014.
Geraldo Rivera is once again citing alleged appearance as a mitigating factor in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, evoking footage of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie to contextualize potential police motive for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
While newly released video footage purports to show 18-year-old Brown robbing a convenience store prior to his death, Ferguson police have emphasized that the suspected crime is entirely unrelated to the police stop and subsequent shooting that resulted in Brown's death. According to the town police chief, Brown was stopped because he was "walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."
This fact did not stop Fox News host Rivera from citing Brown's appearance in the video as potential evidence to the justification of Brown's death.
In an August 15 editorial for Fox News Latino, he wrote that even though police don't link the alleged robbery to Brown's police stop, "At the very least, watching the surveillance video of Brown allegedly robbing the convenience store should alter our perception of the victim. According to Rivera, "The portrait of the kid as an unarmed, innocent, college-bound youth ruthlessly shot in the back while trying to surrender seems incomplete at best." A few days later in a Fox News appearance, Rivera predicted that "menacing" footage of the unrelated robbery could lead to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Brown:
RIVERA: The white jurors will look at that convenience store surveillance tape. They will see Michael Brown menacing that clerk. The white jurors will put themselves in the shoes of that clerk. They'll say, of course the officer responded the way he did. He was menaced by a 6' 4", 300-pound kid, 10 minutes fresh from a strong-armed robbery. The officer was defending himself. The white jurors will put themselves in the white officer's place. The black jurors will see Michael Brown, despite his flaws, as the surrogate for every black youngster ever shot.
In both instances, to illustrate his point, Rivera invoked the appearance of Trayvon Martin. Citing surveillance video of Martin, a black teenager wearing a hoodie in a convenience store prior to his shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman, Rivera wrote that the teen looked "like every 7/11 robbery suspect ever caught on tape."
Martin's appearance led to the acquittal of his killer, Rivera claimed, because "the jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic ... saw the young man through Zimmerman's eyes, threatening and dangerous."
The Fox host gained notoriety in 2012 for blaming the shooting death of Martin on his hoodie, what Rivera deemed "wannabe gangsta," "thug" attire. And despite promising in early 2014 to discontinue using the phrase "thug," which he conceded was akin to "the new n-word" following Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's explanation that the words carried the same racial connotations, only four months later Rivera returned to using the pejorative on the Fox News airways.
Take a look at Rivera's record of using appearance as an explanatory variable when it comes to the shooting deaths of black teens:
There's a stark difference in the way Fox News and Fox News Latino covered reports of hundreds of migrant children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America.
Hundreds of migrant children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America are being held in a makeshift shelter in southern Arizona. The New York Times reported that federal officials predict at least 60,000 unaccompanied minors will attempt to cross into the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year.
In Nogales, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security made available a warehouse to house thousands of children, but according to local media outlets, it has not been without problems. CBS Houston reported that some of the children have complained to the consul of Honduras that the food provided by the shelter is making them sick.
Fox News Latino reported on the "alarming conditions" in which the "undocumented immigrants" were being held, describing images of the shelters as "shocking" and "overcrowded," and quoting Arizona Governor Jan Brewer condemning the conditions as "dangerous and unconscionable":
When St. Louis Rams draft Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend in celebration of his historic selection as the first openly gay active NFL player, there were predictable protests of homophobic disgust on social media.
The kiss also raised the ire of Fox News, where commentators condemned the kiss as "in your face" and "over affectionate." It's a reaction that highlights the way that modern homophobia can manifest in dishonest calls for "appropriate" behavior.
Commenting on Sam's selection on the May 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Donald Trump essentially set the tone for the network's response, noting that many people thought Sam's kiss was "inappropriate" and stating that he personally thought it was "out there a little bit":
The show's hosts didn't ask Trump to weigh in on this sports-related kiss.
On the May 12 edition of The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros criticized Sam for being "overly affectionate on camera," but avowed that she doesn't like to see public displays of affection by anyone. Bill O'Reilly sounded the same theme on his show that night, saying that "there's no kissing in football" - nobody tell Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen - and affirming that he opposes public displays of affection between straight people, too.
O'Reilly argued Sam's "gay thing" was "way overplayed," "annoying," and "in your face." "Do I really need to see that?" O'Reilly asked. Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, stating that he, too, found Sam's kiss to be a little too "in your face."
Perhaps the least self-aware reaction came from Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez, who penned a May 13 column asserting that, while he supports gay rights, Sam's kiss "set back the cause of the LGBT movement." Dubbing the kiss a "cake suck," Sanchez falsely claimed that Sam "lick[ed]" cake off his boyfriend's face in a flagrant "affront to the NFL's culture":
Fox News continued its history of undermining Fox News Latino by ridiculing concerns raised by a Mexican-American student -- and shared by Fox News Latino -- after Dartmouth College cancelled an "exploitative" fundraising event.
An April 29 Fox News Latino article reported on a Dartmouth College fundraiser that was cancelled after a Mexican-American student complained about the highly "exploitative" event which included "virgin piña coladas, strawberry daiquiris and Mexican-themed snacks." The article featured excerpts from student's email sent to Dartmouth officials outlining her objections to the "Phiesta":
"As a Mexican-born, United-States-raised, first-generation woman of color, it was sadly unsurprising that a culturally-themed party was seen as a casual venture for such a privileged institution such as Dartmouth," she wrote in an email to various college organizations, including the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, and Dean Charlotte Johnson.
"There are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event, and I am sure that we, as a Dartmouth community, could learn from the extensive literature written about the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo and its construction as a drinking holiday in the United States, cultural appropriation and the inappropriate usage of cultural clothing, and the exploitation of groups of people and cultures for the sake of business opportunities."
On the same day, Fox News' The Five covered the story by lampooning the student's concerns as political correctness run amok. Co-host Andrea Tantaros boiled Mexican culture down to guacamole, sombreros, and margaritas:
TANTAROS: I guess I'm just wondering, what are the rules for cultural sensitivity? So on one hand, universities are encouraging multiculturalism and they're encouraging us to celebrate and include all these other cultures but when we do it we're called racist. So I just want someone to tell me the rules because I love to drink margaritas, I may or may not have been known to wear a sombrero from time to time on Cinco de Mayo, and eat lots of guacamole. Am I a racist? Am I allowed to do that on Monday or not?
Fox News and Fox News Latino are reporting on the Obama administration's enforcement record differently in a perceived effort to cater to their respective audience. At Fox News, the emphasis is on hosting extreme voices to discredit the Obama administration's record. At Fox News Latino, however, there is no equivocation that the Obama administration is nearing its 2 million deportation threshold.
The most recent example of this divide between Fox News and Fox News Latino includes how they treated a flawed report by the Center for Immigration Studies that cast doubt on President Obama's deportation record. Fox News used it to attack Obama and push the narrative that the administration isn't deporting enough immigrants that warrant deportation. This followed weeks in which the network repeatedly tried to discredit the administration's deportation record, claiming that administration officials are "fudging" the numbers on deportations.
The network misled its audience, telling them that the Obama administration was "destabilizing the nation" with its enforcement policies by releasing undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes. It led to one contributor calling Obama the "releaser-in-chief." Hosts on Fox News' daytime programming went even further, accusing the administration of releasing immigrants who had committed rape and murder. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented after one segment: "That's crazy."
This sentiment continued at FoxNews.com. One story about the administration's immigration enforcement policies included this image with a headline asking: "Are America's Streets Threatened by a Criminal Alien 'Crisis'?":
Though Fox Business host Lou Dobbs was the only Fox host to question the accuracy of CIS' report, he nevertheless agreed that "some" of the immigrants not deported by the Obama administration were convicted of rape and murder.
In stark contrast to other Fox News outlets, Fox News Latino provided far more balance in its reporting on the Obama administration's enforcement policies -- and without any of the alarmist or derogatory language that is popular on Fox News.
Fox News is continuing its practice of appealing to conservative viewers while also pandering to the growing Latino influence in the United States.
In a report on American children in Los Angeles County whose parents are undocumented, Fox News used phrases such as "Alien Nation" and "Children of the Corn" to illustrate the story. In another report, the cable channel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month -- a month-long tribute to Hispanic Americans starting on September 15 -- with a feature on the immigrant roots of Goya Foods.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest-hosted by Chris Wallace, the program used several inflammatory graphics during a segment called "The Grapevine" to highlight a new analysis by Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." According to the data, the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
On Special Report, Wallace stated that the LA County data is "more proof of the economic impact of the immigration debate." As he cited the numbers, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. One read: "Children of the Corn":
"Children of the Corn" is the name of a 1977 short horror story by Stephen King, which tells of a murderous cult of children in a remote town who kill everyone over the age of 18. The story was adapted for film in 1984; at least eight other movies followed.
Wallace nor Special Report explained or referred to the graphics during the segment, which also featured one reading: "Alien Nation":
Fox News and Fox News Latino are again reporting the same story using different lenses to appeal to both their conservative audience and a growing Latino culture.
The Associated Press announced this week that it would no longer refer to undocumented immigrants as "illegal immigrants," saying:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term "illegal immigrant" or the use of "illegal" to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that "illegal" should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Explaining the change, AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll stated that the wire service was "ridding the Stylebook of labels" in other areas and to be consistent, the term "illegal immigrant" will no longer be used. The new entry reads in part: "illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegallyor without legal permission."
Carroll further said that the term "ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone's life to become the modifier before their name."
In an article reporting the AP's move, Fox News Latino featured a photo of a woman holding up a sign that read, "No human being is illegal":
The Fox News Latino article, headlined " 'Illegal Immigrant' Dropped From Associated Press Stylebook," referred to the term "illegal immigrant" as "controversial" and included quotes from racial justice organization The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.org.
By contrast, FoxNews.com highlighted the story on its front page with a picture of what appeared to be immigrants climbing over a border fence. The headline on the photo read: "AP Rules: Don't Call Him an... 'ILLEGAL?'"
Fox News continues to use offensive terms to refer to undocumented immigrants despite recent comments from CEO Roger Ailes agreeing that Fox needs a new message on immigration. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox News figures and guests have used slurs such as "illegals," "illegal aliens," and "anchor babies" at least 90 times since the 2012 election -- terms that are banned on Fox News' online site for Latinos.
As Fox News continues to ponder its stance on immigration and other issues relevant to the Latino community, Fox News chief Roger Ailes suggested to The New Republic that the recently-launched Fox News Latino is designed in part to turn Latino audiences into political conservatives.
Ailes told The New Republic on Monday that he "sees the Latino audience as a 'tremendous business opportunity,'" which helps explain the 2010 launch of Fox News Latino, a mostly English-language website aimed at younger Hispanic generations. From The New Republic (emphasis added):
"The contributions being made by Latinos are extraordinary, and we need to talk about them," Ailes says. The Fox News Latino stylebook uses "undocumented immigrant," and the site downplays immigration stories compared with some of its rivals. "Fox News Latino has a mission to point out the positives of the Latino population, operating within the framework of making America great," Ailes says.
That's not as blandly neutral as it sounds. "Hispanics who get on government programs are doing only a little better than they were in the old country," Ailes elaborates. "Fox News Latino will show people how opportunities exist, that whenever we are overregulated, or there is too much government, we lose freedom. We lose power. That is, historically, one hundred percent true."
Fox News Latino often reports the same stories as other Fox outlets, but with a far more pro-immigrant tone. Its coverage is frequently at odds with other Fox entities, specifically the notoriously anti-immigrant Fox Nation.
Ailes denied allegations of Fox's pandering coverage in his interview with The New Republic, stating,"'There's an assumption that Fox News Latino is softer on Latinos than Fox News in general ...That's ridiculous.'"
Ailes' admission of political motive comes as no surprise following Fox's recent change of tune on immigration after the GOP's poor showing among Latinos in November's election. Though News Corp head Rupert Murdoch has long advocated for immigration reform, Fox News hosts only arrived at the same conclusion after Latinos came out in record numbers to vote for President Obama.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would create an easier process for undocumented immigrants who are relatives of American citizens to apply for permanent residency in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, which issued the new rule, hopes to reduce the amount of time families spend apart while relatives seek to obtain legal status. The change is set to take effect March 4, and approved applicants will be required to return to their native country to retrieve their visas.
Fox News Latino reported the story with the headline, "US Eases Path to Legalization for Some Immigrants, Keeps Families Together," accompanied by a photo of individuals at a rally for immigration reform:
If the photo looks familiar, it's because Fox Nation used the same one in a June story attacking the Obama administration's decision to halt deportations of undocumented children.
Fox News Latino has received sharp criticism from Latino leaders who argue that the site lacks credibility, given that it seeks to attract and profit from Latino readers while its parent network and partner websites demonize immigrants.
This dichotomy persists even as Fox News hosts abruptly softened their anti-immigrant positions after the November 6 election, in which Latino voters heavily favored President Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Leading Latino leaders are criticizing the Fox News website Fox News Latino, saying it lacks credibility among Hispanics by profiting from them even as they are demonized by the conservative parent network known for anti-immigrant coverage.
Since it launched in 2010, Fox News Latino has positioned itself as "the place to go for news that impacts the Latino Community," covering news, politics, entertainment, and other stories through that lens.
"We were skeptical when we heard about this," Inez Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said of the creation of Fox News Latino. "Fox News is a big voice in the anti-Latino rhetoric, so we were skeptical. Some of the articles that I have seen have been interesting to me, [but] I think the owners are hypocrites. I think they are totally forgetting there is double speak here.
"They should be called on for their hypocrisy because they are blasting Latinos in English media and courting us in Latino media, hoping no one who is reading it is bilingual. I don't use Fox News Latino as a source. I would not use Fox News as a source because I know their history. I would question their statistics because I know where they are coming from. They're still Fox."
Indeed, the tone of Fox News Latino's coverage of issues like immigration dramatically differs from that of other parts of the Fox News family, which typically adopt a hardline slant.
Last month after President Obama announced that his administration would no longer seek to deport young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children, Fox News Latino covered the story using the headline "Obama Administration Halts Deportations for Undocumented Children" and featuring a photo of a Latina activist in front of the U.S. Capitol.
By contrast, the Fox Nation website headlined its story on the subject "Obama Administration Bypasses Congress, to Give Immunity, Stop Deporting Younger Illegals" accompanied by a photo of handcuffed young Latinos.
Such disparities in coverage between the Latino-focused website and the rest of the right-wing network are frequent, with other instances including a January 2011 border shooting and last month's Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law.
Fox News hosts and personalities regularly demonize immigrants, refusing to abandon the slur "illegals" though other outlets have done so. The network also cheerleads controversial immigration laws like those in Arizona and Alabama, and outlandish smears of immigrants.
"Their record will ultimately catch up with them, you can't be a media company and think you are hiding your message," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "Latinos aren't dumb. They understand who is on their side and who is not."
Following the Supreme Court ruling striking down most of Arizona's controversial immigration bill, Fox News gave a platform to the heads of two anti-immigrant groups to comment on the decision.
On June 25, Fox News Latino's politics section published a piece by Dan Stein in which the frequent Fox guest and president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) declared the ruling a "victory" for Arizona and criticized the Obama administration's use of prosecutorial discretion to postpone deportation proceedings of certain undocumented workers in order to prioritize the removal of others.
On the same day, FoxNews.com published an opinion piece by Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA. Beck heralded the ruling as an opportunity for other states to "follow Arizona's lead" in enforcing immigration laws "in the way that Congress intended, even if the president insists on violating those laws."
Fox's decision to give Stein and Beck a platform to comment on the Arizona immigration ruling comes in spite of the fact that both of their groups are virulently anti-immigrant.
Indeed, FAIR is an anti-immigrant organization considered a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Not only does it have a history of using extreme, violent, and offensive language aimed at undocumented immigrants, but it has extremist ties as well.
Beck's NumbersUSA is an anti-immigration group with white nationalist ties. It also has ties to the anti-immigration network of John Tanton, "the anti-immigration crusader" who "spent decades at the heart of the white nationalist movement."
The SPLC has referred to Beck as Tanton's "heir apparent." Beck has also been an editor of Tanton's journal, The Social Contract, which, according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR), "has repeatedly served as a platform for white nationalists."
Today's announcement that the Obama administration "will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives" (per the Associated Press) offers an excellent glimpse at how that tension plays out.
Republishing the AP write-up, Fox News Latino used the staid headline "Obama Administration Halts Deportations for Undocumented Children," and attached a photo of a DREAM Act activist in front of the Capitol:
Fox Nation also republished an AP write-up, but their headline and photo selection* spoke to a different tone and audience:
*UPDATE: Fox Nation has since removed the photo from the article, though the photo still appears on their main page.
From the June 4 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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