Fox News hypes Trump's threat to impose tariffs on Mexico

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to impose tariffs on Mexico unless the country stems migration to the U.S., Fox News personalities are cheerleading the move while turning their anger on Senate Republicans for opposing the tariffs.

Trump’s latest threat to impose a 5% tariff on Mexico, rising up to 25% if the Mexican government does not stop migrants approaching the U.S., has concerned experts and politicians across the political spectrum about the potential impact on the U.S. economy. Some Republican senators have reportedly discussed a vote to block the tariffs, but the move would need a two-thirds majority to override Trump’s veto.

Experts warn that the tariffs could have a drastic impact; according to CNBC, “Texas-based economic research firm Perryman Group says proposed tariffs could result in job losses topping 117,000 in Texas and approximately 50,000 in California.” Economists surveyed by Vox said that the threatened tariffs could cost each U.S. household as much as $900.  Business leaders, trade groups, and other organizations have also expressed opposition to Trump’s tariffs: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that “imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico is exactly the wrong move”; Business Roundtable, “an association of chief executive officers, said in a statement that imposing the tariffs would be a “grave error” to tax imports from Mexico”; and anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam America called the proposal “shortsighted, harmful, and counter-productive.”

Despite the negative impact that is sure to be felt by taxing imports from Mexico, some Fox News personalities have been very supportive of the president’s latest decision. Others have also expressed anger and betrayal towards Senate Republicans and businesses for not supporting the president’s move towards tariffs. Here are some of the ways that hosts and guests on Fox have been cheerleading tariffs on Mexico:

On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade chided a “remarkably un-self-aware Congress” for causing “this mess.” Kilmeade expressed anger that Congress is “sitting there against the president on tariffs when he’s using everything possible ... to stem the horrific crisis at our border.” He advised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “pretend it’s Brett Kavanaugh” and “push this forward,” referring to last year’s Senate confirmation process for the conservative Supreme Court justice embattled by sexual assault accusations. When co-host Steve Doocy suggested that “both sides are using it for politics,” Kilmeade insisted that Trump is sincere and that this has “nothing to do with politics.” [Fox Business, Fox & Friends, 6/5/19; The Hill, 10/6/18]

On the June 4 edition of his show, Trump confidant Lou Dobbs claimed that “the republic itself is at stake here” and expressed disgust at Senate Republicans for opposing Trump, dedicating multiple segments to the topic. His guest Ed Rollins encouraged Trump to “stand tough” and said that it will be the “beginning of the end” for Senate Republicans if they don’t support Trump. Dobbs claimed that he “fear[s] for the republic itself” because Trump is trying to “secure American safety,” but Republican senators are “turn[ing] their backs on this president,” called it “appalling” and “an utterly dispiriting moment in our history.” Rollins agreed and added that “this would not be a Senate majority” without Trump’s presidency. Dobbs then played and harshly criticized clips of “so-called Republicans in the U.S. Senate” opposed to the tariffs, saying they “are working against the interests, not only of the nation, but the interests of the president and all of you who voted for them.” Dobbs repeated that “the republic itself is at stake here.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

Dobbs ran another segment attacking Republican senators for “selling out the security of the American people” as the chyron read “RINO resistance,” referring to Republicans in Name Only. His guest, former Trump State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton, called the Republican response “disappointing,” to which Dobbs responded, “Hell yes, it’s disappointing.” They criticized Republicans for not passing legislation to fund the wall when they controlled the House -- Dobbs placed the blame squarely on former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), calling him a “resident traitor” and adding that “now he has Mitch McConnell following.” Dobbs also said that Senate Republicans’ opposition is “the GOP committing suicide.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

Dobbs, hosting Sebastian Gorka, also said there will be “an uprising in this country against the business lobby [and] these pseudo-Republicans” if they oppose Trump’s tariffs.  Dobbs praised Trump for “being the only candidate who had the guts to take on the opioid addiction crisis” before chiding McConnell for “undercutting him with the same glee in his eye that you would expect to be in [Sen.] Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY).” Gorka said that Republicans who oppose Trump now will “pay the price” in 2020. Dobbs agreed and said that there will be “an uprising in this country against the business lobby [and] these pseudo-Republicans” if they oppose Trump’s tariffs. Gorka added that it’s a “betrayal of the American people” and said that Democrats just want “a constituency of illegal aliens beholden to them.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/4/19]

On Outnumbered, Fox host Steve Hilton praised Trump’s “tough response” and criticized the “outrage amongst the traditional establishment types.” He called Trump’s tariff threat a “constructive, entrepreneurial piece of policymaking” and justified the tariffs because of the “emergency at the border,” saying that “it’s not an exaggeration to say that we don’t have immigration control in this country.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/4/19]

Fox News contributor Tom Homan said that he agrees “with the president 100%.” Homan conceded that “the tariffs may have a short-term effect on the economy,” but his “concern is what price will you put on our national security.” He argued that Trump’s tariff proposals are justified because terrorists  want “to come to this country to do us harm … especially now when there’s chaos on the border and such a great vulnerability.” He added that he’s “not trying to be a fearmongerer, but this is more than a humanitarian crisis” and concluded that “the president is trying to secure our nation.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/4/19]

On Outnumbered Overtime, ICE acting director and frequent Fox guest Mark Morgan said that while he is “not an economist,” he is “100% behind the president on this.” He claimed that “Mexico has shown for decades” that they are “on the sidelines,” adding that “they have not been true partners in this.” He also said that Mexico has not been working with the U.S. on asylum “because the cartels own everything” as “a multi-billion dollar industry,” so “Mexico gets to step back and just be facilitators,” saying that they “need to get in the game” and “the president is forcing them to do so.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/4/19]

Discussing Trump’s tariffs on America’s Newsroom, frequent Fox guest Art del Cueto said that “something needs to be done” to force Mexico to reduce immigration, adding that “it’s not about race” because “illegal is not a race.” He concluded that “Mexico needs to assume that responsibility.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/5/19]