On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced “a regulation to allow it to indefinitely detain migrant families who illegally cross the border,” scrapping the existing 20-day detention limit for families with children. In its initial reporting the same day, Fox News acknowledged that migrant families arriving at the southern border face “indefinite detention” under President Donald Trump’s announced plan. But beginning Thursday morning, the hosts of Fox & Friends began to contradict themselves and other Fox coverage; some insisted that the detention of families won’t be indefinite, while others acknowledged that it will be.
The August 21 edition of Fox & Friends opened with the announcement that the Trump administration intends to scrap the 1997 Flores court agreement that limits family detention time and establishes minimum facility standards, which the show’s hosts referred to as a “loophole” in the immigration system. Co-host Steve Doocy said: “What would happen now is it looks like the family unit would be kept together indefinitely until they get their day in court.”
On America’s Newsroom later in the morning, co-anchor Sandra Smith introduced acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan by stating: “Our next guest calls [the policy change] a critical update, allowing those families to be held indefinitely while they await a decision on their immigration status.”
Fox’s flagship evening news program, Special Report, opened with a segment in which White House correspondent John Roberts said: “The Trump administration today moved to indefinitely detain families who cross the border illegally.” During Roberts’ report, one of the on-screen chyrons also stated: “Trump seeks indefinite detention for migrant families.”
On August 22, however, Fox & Friends began its program with an effort to spin Trump’s new policy. Doocy at first repeated that the administration is saying “we’re going to have permanent rules to establish the fact that we can hold families together, indefinitely, until they get their day in court.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade immediately interjected, claiming, “The goal is not to hold families indefinitely.” After the show aired criticism of the new policy, Doocy walked back his earlier statement, saying: “It’s not indefinite. It’s until they get their day in court.”
In the next hour, co-host Steve Doocy introduced Fox White House correspondent Kevin Corke by saying that he joins the program “with reactions from both sides and some pushback, Kevin, because some people are saying the children will be detained indefinitely, which the White House says is not true.” “That’s right,” Corke responded, noting that the White House is saying that “even though it would be technically indefinite if it were approved, it most likely -- we’re looking at 60 days.”
Mark Morgan, Trump’s acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner, joined Fox & Friends a little later and said he appreciated the hosts for “doing a great job this morning laying it out for the American people.” Morgan then said it’s a “false narrative” that the Department of Homeland Security will be able to detain families indefinitely under Trump’s new policy:
Fox & Friends aired yet another segment after the interview with Morgan, in which co-host Ainsley Earhardt, along with Doocy, claimed family detention is “not indefinite” under the change.
During the August 22 edition of America’s Newsroom, guest co-anchor Jon Scott said: “Strong new reaction pouring in from both sides after the Trump administration announces new immigration rules that would keep families of migrants together indefinitely as they await court dates.” America’s Newsroom also displayed a graphic which stated: “President Trump defends plan to allow indefinite detention of migrant families.”
During the same program, Fox correspondent Peter Doocy also referred to Trump’s new policy as aiming to hold families “indefinitely,” saying, “The Trump administration believes that locking up families they catch crossing the border illegally and holding them indefinitely is going to cut down on human trafficking.”
Cornell University Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr told NPR that the rule would “probably” be blocked by courts.