Donald Trump has made attacking immigrants a central part of his presidential campaign, tapping into anti-immigrant sentiment that’s been brewing for years thanks to a concerted effort by right-wing media outlets like Fox News.
Trump’s campaign has been defined by his animosity toward immigrants: he launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and, most recently, argued that an American-born federal judge with Mexican heritage can’t be trusted to do his job.
Trump’s attacks on immigrants are copied and pasted from right-wing media, which have spent the better part of a decade warning Republican voters that immigrants are pouring across the border to take their jobs, commit crime, and spread disease. That constant barrage of misinformation has pulled Republican voters to the right -- Fox News Republicans have a considerably more negative view of immigrants than other Republicans.
That coverage has also had an effect on GOP lawmakers and candidates, who know that sounding too moderate on immigration might make them targets for right-wing pundits. The fear of retaliation from conservative media helps explain why, by the end of the GOP primary, Trump’s opponents sounded a lot like him when it came to immigration.
The Republican Party’s embrace of Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry is a dramatic shift from the “compassionate conservative” approach touted during the Bush years, and demonstrates the power of right-wing media to influence Republican voters. A paper from the Harvard Kennedy School last year concluded that conservative media now dictate the direction of the Republican Party on immigration, driving it far to the right.
Regardless of what happens in November, the Republican Party will need to come to terms with the anti-immigrant monster that right-wing outlets like Fox News have created.