Fox & Friends Weekend hosted a sheriff accused of civil rights violations against immigrant detainees

A sheriff was accused of excessive force against immigrant detainees, indiscriminately using pepper balls and police dogs against an entire unit. He appeared on Fox, where he and hosts claimed the investigation is a “political hit job.”

In the wake of a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to stop detaining immigrants at two county jails in Georgia and Massachusetts under investigation for alleged abuse, the Saturday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend hosted Bristol County, Massachusetts, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson to attack the Biden administration.

Rather than ask anything about the specific case in which detainees were indiscriminately subjected to pepper balls and police dogs, an incident in which Hodgson himself was directly involved, Fox provided him a platform for his conspiracy theory about a “political hit job” by the Biden administration, and for him to promote an organization of right-wing sheriffs.

The Washington Post reported last week that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately terminate its contract with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts and to transfer the few remaining detainees elsewhere. He also directed ICE to rescind an agreement with the sheriff’s office that trained deputies to screen inmates arrested for crimes to see if they are also eligible for deportation.”  Civil rights groups have opposed this program, known as 287(g). As a Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition spokesperson told local outlet Mass Live, “These agreements represent a wasteful use of public funds, deter immigrant victims and witnesses from reporting crimes, and often lead to racial profiling.”

The decision involving Bristol County was sparked by an incident from May 1, 2020, when some detainees refused to be taken to the facility’s medical unit for COVID-19 testing due to a fear of cross-contamination, instead demanding that the test be administered on-site. The officers’ use of force against the inmates included pepper balls, a flashbang grenade, and K9 units. At the time, Hodgson — an ally of former President Donald Trump, and who has since promoted false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election — said that the detainees had caused physical damage to the facility before the officers intervened. 

But an investigation by the civil rights division of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office later determined that “only a handful of the detainees” had engaged in destructive behavior and that all such destructive activities had ceased more than 45 minutes before the sheriff’s response team entered the unit. The report also determined that the use of force had been “excessive and disproportionate based on the totality of the circumstances” when there was no longer a physical threat and that officers had acted indiscriminately against detainees who had not participated in the disturbance. The report also found that statements by the facility’s superintendent to the responding officers — claiming that the detainees possessed a variety of makeshift weapons and were all participating in the disturbance — had been “demonstrably false.”

But the Fox & Friends Weekend hosts ignored all this context during the interview with Hodgson, instead only making a vague and general reference to investigations for excessive force.

“Biden administration officials ordering ICE to cut ties with a Massachusetts sheriff's office and transfer all migrant detainees out of the jail unit that houses illegal immigrants facing deportation,” co-host Will Cain said. “This amid an ongoing federal investigation into excessive force allegations.”

“But our next guest, who runs that facility, says it's nothing more than a political hit job,” said co-host Pete Hegseth, and co-host Emily Compagno then introduced Hodgson.

Nowhere in the segment did either the hosts or Hodgson explain the miniscule scope of this policy change for his county jail: According to Boston public radio, only seven detainees still remain in the facility — and just to be clear, they are not being set free but will instead be transferred to another facility.

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Citation From the May 22, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Weekend

Cain also commented to Hodgson that Mayorkas “is saying it’s the  particulars of this facility, and there was mistreatment. What do you say to that?”

“There’s no other way for me to say this — he’s a liar,” Hodgson replied “First of all, my department has been running an ICE facility, which I built with state money, for 15 — almost 15 years now. And we are considered the model for the nation. We just had our ICE inspection just about a week ago, and it was outstanding. They all have been. So this is all part of a facade on the part of him.”

Hodgson then proceeded to promote an organization of right-wing sheriffs, Protect America Now, which has been promoted on Fox News earlier this year as well.

“I'm telling you, people need to fasten their seatbelts. This is what’s coming, and you watch and see. They already said they’re going to close these other 200 facilities in one way or another,” Hodgson declared. “And that’s why the sheriffs of this nation are coming together, and asking the American people — join with us. We’re not going to turn our backs on you or our oath. Go to Protect America Now, and join with us, because we are not going to stand down. We’re going to uphold our oath even if they don’t don't want to uphold theirs.”