On Monday, former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) announced his campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. Barletta has a long history of anti-immigrant extremism, which includes his recent position on the board of advisers of the nativist, eugenicist-founded Federation for American Immigration Reform. But many local and national media outlets that initially reported on Barletta’s campaign failed to mention his ties to FAIR.
Barletta's extensive history of pushing an anti-immigrant agenda includes defending the Trump administration’s inhumane family separation policy; pursuing a “draconian” anti-immigrant housing policy as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania; cosponsoring racist legislation targeting birthright citizenship while in Congress; and supporting antisemitic and anti-immigrant publications and groups, including those tied to John Tanton.
The late Tanton -- who supported eco-fascism, white nationalism, and eugenics in his lifetime -- founded and financed a coalition of anti-immigrant groups known as the Tanton network. FAIR is a part of this network and has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its well-documented ties to white nationalism and its clear mission to restrict immigration into the U.S. As reported by the SPLC:
FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country. One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a “mistake.”
FAIR’s website lists Barletta on its board of advisers, and documentation as recently as May 2020 shows his membership on the board. Yet many local and national media outlets failed to include Barletta’s involvement with the extreme anti-immigrant group in their initial reporting of his gubernatorial run.
The Hill, The Washington Post, The Associated Press (AP), and NBC are among the national media outlets that did not include Barletta’s position on FAIR’s board of advisers, while local media outlets also largely ignored Barletta’s ties to the anti-immigrant group. NBC10 Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Times Leader, and ABC 27 all ran reprints of the AP story on Barletta’s campaign announcement.
Running wire stories rather than original reporting is a common practice for local outlets that underscores the importance of strong reporting from outlets like AP, as well as highlighting local outlets’ reliance on wire services. For example, The Philadelphia Inquirer is the largest newspaper in Pennsylvania as well as the largest nonprofit-owned paper in the nation, and yet it still relied on AP’s coverage of Barletta’s campaign announcement, which mentioned his past anti-immigrant policies but neglected to include his recent ties to FAIR.
Organizations associated with Tanton have a very well-documented history of spreading an anti-immigration agenda fueled by white nationalism, and it is vital for reporting to provide this necessary context and inform voters of a candidate’s ties to these extremist groups.