Fox News is providing a platform for conservatives to spread misinformation about refugees and stoke anti-Muslim fears following a series of apparent terror attacks around the country. Fox’s open-door policy for fearmongers is in keeping with the network’s disconcerting history as a source of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment after terror attacks at home and abroad.
Authorities have arrested a suspect in the September 17 bomb explosions in Manhattan and Seaside Park, N.J.; a suspect was shot in a stabbing spree the same day in Saint Cloud, MN. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terrorism,” referring to the two New York area bombings, and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Minnesota mall attack.
President Obama advised that “the press try to refrain from getting out ahead of the investigation” and warned against the dissemination of “false reports or incomplete information” -- a warning Fox News ignored as it hosted a series of guests who peddled anti-Muslim talking points and xenophobic rhetoric.
During a segment that led off with Fox host Ainsley Earhardt asking, “Is the Somali refugee crisis now a terror crisis?” Fox contributor Pete Hegseth warned of the “incubation” of radical Islam in “radical mosques” in Minnesota, claiming that “the problem is that a lot of those communities have not assimilated the way we would want them to.” Hegseth then proclaimed that there “is a terrorist recruitment problem in Minnesota.” Hegseth regularly fearmongers on Fox’s airwaves about terror and the “concerns about integration” of Muslims.
Jim Hanson, executive vice president of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, argued for heightened policing of Muslim communities because the New York attacker was “conducting jihad” and “saying Allahu Akbar.” Hanson also baselessly speculated that the Chelsea neighborhood of New York was targeted because it “is a prominently gay area” and claimed that “there’s a decent chance that this might have been another attempt to attack the gay community.” Hanson has regularly appeared on Fox to spread fears about Islam and terror.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to fearmonger about refugees and immigration, claiming that President Obama’s policy of “letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands” will lead to terror attacks “happen[ing] perhaps more and more all over the country.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump and a Fox regular, exploited the attacks to call for surveilling the Muslim community, adding that it “is absolute nonsense” to say that going “into these communities” for that purpose is Islamophobic. Flynn suggested that heightened surveillance of Muslim communities doesn’t occur because of “political correctness” and that “political correctness kills. It will cause death.” Fox has a record of responding to terror attacks by pushing profiling and mosque surveillance, which have been found to be ineffective and, according to the ACLU, lead to stigma, interference with religious worship, fear, free speech violation, and damaged relationships with law enforcement.
Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the government is letting refugees come “into the country unvetted from terrorism hotspots all over the world,” even though the United States has a rigorous and stringent vetting process for refugees and immigrants.
Fox News consistently turns to fearmongering, anti-Muslim narratives after terror attacks, adopting racially charged rhetoric and recycling distorted lies about Muslims and refugees. Fox hosts and guests exploited the European refugee crisis and used the Paris terrorist attacks to stoke fears about admitting refugees into America; conservatives used Fox to advocate for profiling Muslim Americans following the San Bernardino, CA, shooting; and right-wing pundits twisted the Brussels attack to whip up anti-Muslim fears.