Radio Factor guest host Gibson wrong on Latino support for California's Prop. 187

As guest host of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, Fox News host John Gibson falsely claimed that California's controversial Proposition 187, which sought to deny illegal immigrants access to most government services, “couldn't have passed if Latinos or Hispanics in California hadn't voted for it.” His guest, Republican California state senator Bill Morrow agreed with Gibson's erroneous statement. In fact, exit polls found that the vast majority of California Hispanics voted against Proposition 187, and contrary to Gibson's claim, the measure passed without significant Latino support.

Proposition 187 denied undocumented immigrants access to public services, such as education and non-emergency publicly funded health care. It also required government officials to notify law enforcement of illegal immigrants who tried to obtain such services. California voters approved the measure on November 9, 1994, but a federal court quickly enjoined its enforcement. A year later, U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer struck down the parts of the initiative that required state officials to verify a person's immigration status and to notify law enforcement of violations of the law. California subsequently settled the case and agreed not to appeal Pfaelzer's ruling [Associated Press, 7/29/99].

But only slightly more than a quarter of Latino voters favored Proposition 187, and the Latino support it received was not decisive in its passage. An analysis by the Field Research Corp. of exit polls conducted in November 1994 by the Los Angeles Times and Voter News Service found that Latinos voted heavily against Proposition 187 (73 percent to 27 percent). Data from that analysis, as well as vote totals published in the November 10, 1994, Los Angeles Times, indicate that the roughly 190,000 Latinos who voted for the measure (out of more than 700,000 Latinos who voted) was a far smaller sum than the more than 1.4 million vote (59 percent to 41 percent) margin of victory.

Media Matters recently documented right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's false claim on the August 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that a “majority of Hispanics voted in favor of” Proposition 187.

From the August 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

GIBSON: You ought to be worried. I mean, the Democrats get out in front of this and make this their issue.

MORROW: Well, you know, aside from the partisanship, look, it's a huge issue, and we need to do the right thing regardless. And yeah, the Republicans -- at least some Republicans -- have been out in the lead on this. They should be. And apparently we're having an effect where at least we're convincing even Democrats to come on board and recognize this problem publicly. You know, I'm astounded -- well, maybe I'm hopeful in view of what I'm seeing that's happening in New Mexico, in Arizona, and now in with [California Assembly] Speaker [Fabian] Nuñez. Bear in mind, of course, both of those states -- Arizona and New Mexico -- have substantial Hispanic Latino populations.

GIBSON: Right.

MORROW: The governor of one state [Bill Richardson of New Mexico] is himself Latino.

GIBSON: Right.

MORROW: I mean, if there's not enough comfort zone for Republicans to be pronouncing this issue, I don't know what is.

GIBSON: Yeah. What else do you need?

MORROW: And you know -- but here's where I come from: Nothing has changed. I mean, for 13 years, it's been my observation, or the Latino community in California, a majority have always been in favor of Border Patrols and have been on our side on that issue. Prop. 187 -- not to bring up this, but Prop. 187 -- the best that it did, even in the Hispanic Latino community, may have driven a wedge to make it a 50-50 at one point, 50 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed. But I'm telling you, before that, they were largely in favor of --

GIBSON: Yeah. Well, I mean, Prop. 187, just to fill people in, was an effort to curb illegal immigration by taking away some of the incentives that illegal immigrants have to come to California -- free health care, free school, and so forth. But --

MORROW: Similarly to what was passed recently in Arizona.

GIBSON: But it couldn't have passed if Latinos or Hispanics in California hadn't voted for it. Could it?

MORROW: Exactly. And I have to remind people -- it not only passed, it passed overwhelmingly.

GIBSON: OK. Now let's jump ahead.

MORROW: But it was only [inaudible] by the courts.

GIBSON: Let's jump ahead.