Right-wing media are exploiting the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa to stoke fears that undocumented immigrants could carry the deadly virus across the southern U.S. border, even though the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have stated that the likelihood of such an event is "almost nonexistent."
A day after politicizing the current West African Ebola crisis in order to stoke baseless fears that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could spread the disease to Americans, radio host Laura Ingraham flipped to criticizing the media for taking advantage of the crisis by whipping up "hysteria" about the crisis without consulting experts to put the situation in context.
Two American health workers who were infected with the Ebola virus while fighting the ongoing epidemic in West Africa recently returned to the U.S. for treatment. Radio host Laura Ingraham took advantage of the news to ratchet up her efforts to smear Central American immigrants and push back against immigration reform. On the August 4 edition of her radio show, Ingraham cautioned her viewers about the supposed health risks of having "a border that's so much like Swiss cheese that anyone could be coming across the border right now," and warned: "We could have Ebola people coming across the border right now." Ingraham concluded, "If you're going to be upset about Ebola, you'd better be upset about the border."
These comments stand in stark contrast to Ingraham's August 5 coverage of the Ebola outbreak. Ingraham bemoaned the fact that media outlets are whipping up "hysteria" with extensive ebola coverage and attacked the media for stoking baseless fears about the potential spread of the virus while neglecting to talk "to medical experts about what the truth is about infectious diseases, the spread of this, what measures we take and what measures aren't taken in Africa to deal with this."
But Ingraham's own coverage conspicuously avoided the facts she called for. The suggestion that, in Ingraham's words, "Ebola people" could be "coming across the border right now" has already gotten a "pants on fire" rating from Politifact, which actually contacted experts on the issue. As Politifact noted, the CDC reports that "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere," and it is "extremely unlikely" that a migrant entering the U.S. across the Mexican border could be infected. Experts also noted that even if the illness spread to central America, an infected person would unlikely to survive the journey across the border:
Experts we asked issued a resounding "No."
First, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose job includes tracking outbreaks of serious infectious diseases. Spokesman Daniel J. DeNoon confirmed that the CDC has received no reports of a human Ebola infection anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less the U.S.-Mexico border. "Ebola cases in humans have never been reported outside of Africa," DeNoon said.
William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed. "The congressman is misinformed," he said. "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere."
We also checked whether it was plausible for a child or adult entering the United States from Central America via Mexico to be infected with the Ebola virus. CDC scientists call it "extremely unlikely," DeNoon said.
Independent experts agreed. "It's very, very, highly unlikely if you are talking about someone from Central America who has not traveled to Africa," Thomas W. Geisbert, a microbiologist and immunologist specializing in Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
However, the profile of the jet-flying Ebola carrier doesn't mesh with the types of peoples now flocking to the U.S. border.
"The incubation period is two to 21 days, so theoretically, an African could fly from an infected area, land in a Mexican airport, take a bus toward the border, hire a coyote to take him across and then 'present' with Ebola," said Thomas Fekete, section chief for infectious diseases at the Temple University School of Medicine. "But this presupposes a suicidal person who also has the resources for this kind of travel."
Indeed, the prior, scattered examples of exotic and deadly diseases reaching the United States suggest that "the likelihood of an illegal migrant getting infected and introducing the disease to the U.S. is probably less than that of a 'legal' traveler," said Daniel G. Bausch, head of the virology and emerging infections department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.6 in Lima, Peru.
Another problem: If you had such an infection, the chances are good that you would die on the journey to the United States, said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "You would be too sick to make it to the border by foot," he said.
Ingraham has a history of stoking fears of communicable disease in order to push her anti-immigration agenda.
From the August 4 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the July 21 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the July 14 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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The racially charged and conspiratorial rhetoric protesters spewed at child migrants on their way to temporary housing in Murrieta, California, closely mirrored some of conservative media's favorite xenophobic talking points.
In the first week of July, hundreds of protesters gathered in Murrieta to voice opposition to the planned housing of migrant detainees at the federal Border Patrol station in the city, blocking buses and forcing them to return to the Border Patrol station in San Diego. The buses contained unaccompanied minors and women with children, awaiting deportation proceedings after crossing the U.S. border in Texas to flee violence in Central America.
These protests, along with a preceding Murrieta town hall on July 3, were full of invective -- protesters charged that the "illegal aliens" carried dangerous diseases and were possibly members of gangs and drug cartels. The crowds demanded that the government simply send the children back, screaming chants of "go home" and "U.S.A."
The protestors were so full of vitriol that immigration officials rerouted the migrants' buses to San Diego, citing safety concerns for the women and children aboard.
Media Matters for America researcher Lis Power contributed to this post.
From the July 8 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Conservative talk radio hosts lashed out at Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran for beating his tea party primary challenger, Chris McDaniel, with the help of votes from blacks and Democrats.
Right-wing media have dishonestly portrayed recent reports of children fleeing across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence in Central America, even portraying the immigrants as dangerous disease-carriers, terrorists, and cartel members.
From the June 13 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Conservative talk-radio hosts like Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham devoted considerable time touting Republican anti-immigration congressional candidate David Brat, and they took credit for his surprise victory over Rep. Eric Cantor during the Virginia primary election.
Brat's candidacy was most vocally championed by conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham. Ingraham led the charge against Cantor with a sustained effort to put Brat into office. Holding true to her extreme anti-immigration stance, Ingraham applauded Brat and his "consistent, principled stance against Amnesty," attending multiple rallies for the candidate and even posting a "Vote Brat, Stop Amnesty" election day reminder in order to get out the vote.
However, after Brat's victory, Ingraham was quick to point out that she didn't do it alone. On a June 11 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, she praised her fellow conservatives, including Mark Levin, for being "the only people covering this race" (emphasis added):
INGRAHAM: This is being branded as a tea party victory. That's not quite accurate, and Brat addressed this last night. Not one major tea party organization came out and endorsed Brat. Supported Brat in any meaningful way. We had a difficult time getting the tea party groups and Brat connected. They bascially told him, 'you don't have a chance,' they wrote him off.
And there were a few people -- myself, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus, Breitbart News, The Daily Caller -- they were pretty much the only people covering this race. I said this yesterday on Fox & Friends. We had 625 people hanging off the balcony of Eric Cantor's own country club last Tuesday night and there was no major media there except for Breitbart News and a little reporter from the local NBC. That's it.
Mark Levin hosted David Brat four times since April to discuss both his campaign and Eric Cantor's stances on immigration policy, of which Levin has long been a vocal critic. During a May 29 interview on Levin's show, Brat received the host's full-throttle endorsement. Levin encouraged his audience to visit the candidate's website adding, "in my humble opinion if you have a few bucks, give the guy some help because he needs it and he would be a great member of Congress." Levin also supported Brat on his social media platforms:
On June 9, the day before the election, Levin again hosted Brat on his show, telling him that "I'm all for you, I want you to win" during and allowing him to thoroughly explain his platform to listeners.
Ingraham and Levin's support propelled Brat further into the conservative media sphere as Brat gained momentum in the run up to Tuesday's primary. A day before the election, Brat appeared on the The Glenn Beck Radio Program. Beck began his interview with Brat by noting that a variety of conservative media figures supported his cause, saying, "Doc Thompson, Laura Ingraham, Pat & Stu have talked to him and are big fans."
Cantor's defeat was especially stunning after his campaign raised more than $5.4 million dollars, a number that towered over the meager $123,000 that Brat's campaign spent. However, what little Brat did spend came in part from the support of those driven by conservative radio's urging. As the Washington Post wrote in a June 11 article, the talk-radio hosts were responsible for driving many donations to the Brat campaign:
Brat was boosted for months by conservative talk-radio hosts, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, who touted him as a contender to their listeners and drove small-dollar donations into Brat's coffers.
Now that the Brat's win is clear, conservatives have wasted no time patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Fox News quickly quickly moved to credit conservative radio, with contributor Brit Hume claiming that ""There are parts of this country where if Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin are on the radio supporting you, that's worth a lot" during an appearance on the June 11 edition of The Kelly File. Levin later appeared himself on Hannity to complete the victory lap.
From the June 11 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made good on her promise to primary any Republican candidate who didn't share her anti-immigrant views, actively campaigning against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) by endorsing his victorious opponent Dave Brat and making appearances at rallies to support him.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, a contributor for Fox and ABC News, used a sound bite from a Taco Bell commercial to mock the plight of hundreds of migrant children fleeing violence in Central America who are being held in a makeshift shelter in southern Arizona.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children who will make the dangerous trip from Central America over the next year fleeing violence will require care. 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.
On the June 10 edition of her radio show, Ingraham responded to this news by dismissing the children's plight, saying, "I bet there are a lot of American kids who would like free food before they go to bed at night." She followed her comments with a sound clip from a Taco Bell advertising campaign of the 1990s, in which a chihuahua says repeatedly, "Yo quiero Taco Bell."
Ingraham is no stranger to controversial sound effects. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech", the radio host used the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965.
She also repeatedly engages in smearing and denigrating immigrants.
Conservatives have responded to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by attacking his father, questioning President Obama's sanity and patriotism, and calling for impeachment.