On August 10, Fox News’ Fox & Friends devoted multiple segments to attacking a collaborative video by Vox and ProPublica about the gang MS-13 that addressed “the most common misunderstandings about the gang” -- many of which are propagated by President Donald Trump.
Fox & Friends accused Vox and ProPublica of “defend[ing] MS-13” and claiming that the gang members “are really not that violent.” Roaming correspondent Geraldo Rivera, in a later segment, even accused the two media organizations of being “almost pro-MS-13” because of their “desire to put down the president.”
True to form, Fox’s multiple attacks on the Vox and ProPublica report contained a lot of misinformation and race-baiting:
- Co-host Steve Doocy accused Vox and ProPublica of “ignor[ing] the reality of what is happening on the ground. This is a vicious gang.” In reality, the video did report that the gang has “committed acts of horrific violence, mostly against other immigrants in specific communities.”
- Co-host Brian Kilmeade incorrectly claimed that Salvadoran refugees fleeing violence in their home country formed MS-13 because they were “angry” at the United States and “start[ed] wreaking havoc” in the country. In reality, the gang initially formed as a measure of self-defense “in neighborhoods dominated by Black and Mexican gangs.”
- Kilmeade bizarrely claimed that MS-13 “oftentimes” does “not [target] immigrant communities” but instead “working class communities, many of which are Hispanic. It doesn’t mean they are immigrant communities. It means they are Hispanic Americans.” This is false; the gang specifically targets immigrant communities because it can pressure them “by carrying out threats against family members back home.”
- Former ICE acting Director Thomas Homan, who is a regular Fox guest, misleadingly claimed that “command and control of MS-13 is in El Salvador.” In reality, “MS-13 is a decentralized organization with no clear hierarchy” and “no leader.” It is instead built around local “cliques” that are sometimes “loyal to each other,” but also sometimes have competing interests.
- Homan also claimed that Trump’s immigration policies are “on point” for combating MS-13, which he said was a border and immigration issue. However, decades of deporting convicted immigrants only made street gangs (including MS-13) larger and more powerful, and MS-13 members accounted for just .075 percent of all irregular border crossings in fiscal year 2017. (ICE has, however, made false accusations of gang affiliation to deport immigrants.)
- Roaming Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera advocated the expansion of stop-and-frisk policies (also known as Terry stops) and any other “aggressive police tactics” to stop the gang, even though there’s little evidence that stop-and-frisk actually works. But aggressive policing does sow distrust in communities, making gang violence more difficult to combat.
Fox’s absurdist attack on reporting by Vox and ProPublica fits the network’s growing reputation as cable news’ home for white nationalism. The network has long spread a litany of fear, misinformation, and conspiracy theories about immigrants regarding elections, crime, terrorism, and more. The network also spearheads outlandish defenses of the agencies charged with executing Trump’s racist immigration policies, which can be fairly described as a possible prelude to ethnic cleansing.
Under the Trump administration, Fox hosts’ commentary is becoming more explicitly racialized: Kilmeade defended Trump’s family separation policy simply because “these aren’t our kids,” Fox host Laura Ingraham attacked “both illegal and in some cases legal immigration” for erasing “the America that we know and love,” and Fox’s prime-time lead, Tucker Carlson Tonight, heavily focuses on themes of white nationalism and anti-feminism, receiving much adoration from bigots nationwide.
Disclosure: Hannah Dreier, the ProPublica journalist who worked on the report with Vox, is a former Media Matters researcher.