On May 9, Fox's straight “news” show America’s Newsroom ran a news report and a commentary segment on President Donald Trump’s rally the night before in Panama City Beach, FL, and both Fox segments ignored the president’s inflammatory words that “only in the Panhandle you can get away with” saying you want to shoot immigrants. Commentary provided by a former staffer to Sen. Mitch McConnell focused instead on the argument that “most people can watch [a Trump rally] and be entertained one way or another.”
At the May 8 rally, Trump mentioned that the government “can’t” attack immigrants with weapons, asking, “But how do you stop these people?” Someone in the crowd replied “shoot them,” prompting cheers from the audience and laughter from the president, who added, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.” In addition to not being mentioned by Fox in either part of this segment, the exchange was scrubbed from the Trump campaign’s official transcript of the rally.
The president’s statement about getting away with talking about shooting immigrants is extremely dangerous, even as a joke. As Media Matters documented in an August 2018 study, anti-immigrant memes go viral virtually every week on right-wing Facebook pages, including memes which promote individual or mass violence against immigrants. The comments on these viral posts often also call for anti-immigrant violence, and -- like Fox News regularly does -- some of them refer to immigration as an “invasion.” From the May 9 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): Strikes me the campaign kicked off last night. Did you get a sense of that?
JOSH HOLMES (FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL): Yeah, no question. I think there’s a good golden rule of politics, it’s the candidate who looks like he’s having the most fun is usually the one that’s winning. And the contrast there for President Trump and his rally in Florida, I mean, everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun, and you can contrast that with how these 2020ers have been marching around the country in this sort of dour mood full of negativity.
HEMMER: You know, humor sells, right?
HOLMES: It does.
HEMMER: It’s very underrated, Josh.
HOLMES: It is, it is, and nobody does it better than President Trump, you know? It starts with the nicknames, but he also just keeps it light. I mean, these have got to be the first entertaining rallies in the history of politics. I mean, mostly these things are pretty dry and it’s all about speaking to the partisans. But I think most people can watch this and be entertained one way or another.