GOP Debate Puts National Spotlight On Fox's Use Of “Illegals” Slur

At the Fox News-Google GOP presidential debate, co-moderator Chris Wallace used the pejorative term “illegals” to refer to undocumented immigrants and read a question from the public that used the term, as well. Journalists have called on the media to stop using the term “illegals,” but Fox's “straight news” shows use it consistently nonetheless.

Wallace Uses Term “Illegals” Twice Himself, Asks Question From Public That Uses It Three Times

Wallace Tells Romney, “You Vetoed Legislation To Provide Interstate Tuition Rates To The Children Of Illegals.” From the debate:

WALLACE: Governor Romney, I want to continue a conversation that you had with Governor Perry in the last debate. In Massachusetts, you vetoed legislation to provide in-state tuition rates to the children of illegals. Governor Perry, of course, signed the Texas DREAM Act to do exactly that.

But what about Governor Perry's argument that it's better to get these kids an education and to get them jobs than to consign them just to being a burden on the state? [Fox News, Fox News-Google Presidential Debate, 9/22/11]

Question Chosen For Inclusion In Debate Uses “Illegals” Three Times. From the debate:

WALLACE: Governor Perry, I'm going to ask you a question, so you don't need to respond to him, because you're going to get a full minute to answer your question, which is on directly this point. You're the candidate whose name, by a wide margin, came up most often in the questions being submitted to all of you candidates about immigration.

Dave Hollenbeck of Arizona sent this: “To date, it appears that you have not tried to stop the illegals from coming. We have high unemployment and a considerable amount of jobs going to illegals. Are you going to exert an effort to stop the abuse of U.S. citizens by illegals?” [Fox News, Fox News-Google Presidential Debate, 9/22/11]

Wallace: “More Than 16,000 Children Of Illegals” Paid In-State Tuition In Texas Last Year. From the debate:

WALLACE: Now, last year, more than 16,000 children of illegals, young people in Texas, took advantage of your in-state tuition rate. Speak to that issue. And just, generally, how do you feel being criticized by a number of these other candidates on the stage for being too soft on immigration, sir? [Fox News, Fox News/Google Presidential Debate, 9/22/11]

Term “Illegal” Dominates Word Cloud Of Public's Immigration Questions

Baier: Word Cloud “Shows The Words That Were Used Most Often In All Of The Questions You Asked About Immigration.” From the debate:

BRET BAIER (co-moderator): After the break, we will be tackling foreign policy, government spending. Shannon [Bream] will have more on that, too. And also the issue of immigration.

Now, here for a preview of what's to come, let's take a look at what's called a word cloud. It shows the words that were used most often in all of the questions you asked about immigration. The bigger the word, the more often it was used.

The biggest word in this cloud, as you see, is “illegal.” [Fox News, Fox News-Google GOP Debate, 9/22/11]

Word Cloud Dominated By “Illegal.” From the debate:

[Fox News, GOP Debate, 9/22/11]

Journalists Have Called On Media To Stop Using Pejorative Term “Illegals”

AP Stylebook Explicitly Instructs Journalists Not To Use “Illegal Or Illegals.” In its entry for “illegal immigrant,” the Associated Press Stylebook specifically instructs journalists not to shorten the phrase to exclude the word “immigrant.” From their official entry of the term “illegal immigrant”:

Used to describe someone who has entered the country illegally or who resides in the country illegally. It is the preferred term, not illegal alien or undocumented worker. Do not use the shortened term an illegal or illegals. [AP Stylebook, accessed 9/23/11]

National Association Of Hispanic Journalists Called For News Media To Stop Use Of “Illegals” As A Noun. In a March 2006 press release, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), a “2,300-member organization of reporters, editors and other journalists,” stated that it was “particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word 'illegals' as a noun, shorthand for 'illegal aliens,' ” adding: “Using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed”:

NAHJ is concerned with the increasing use of pejorative terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. NAHJ is particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word “illegals” as a noun, shorthand for “illegal aliens”. Using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed. NAHJ calls on the media to never use “illegals” in headlines.

Shortening the term in this way also stereotypes undocumented people who are in the United States as having committed a crime. Under current U.S. immigration law, being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a civil violation. Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of all undocumented people living in the U.S. are visa overstayers, meaning they did not illegally cross the U.S. border. [National Association Of Hispanic Journalists, 3/06]

For more about the truth on the pejorative term “illegal,” click here.

Fox's “Straight News” Shows Have Repeatedly Used Slur

Fox's Henneberg: “Democrats Want A Pathway To Citizenship For Illegals.” From the April 19 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:

MOLLY HENNEBERG (Fox News correspondent): During the first part of his term, the president was not able to get the Democratically controlled Congress to pass immigration legislation. Now, with the GOP in control of the House, he's testing Republican lawmakers, saying in an interview last night, quote, “Are we going to be able to find some Republicans who can partner with me and others to get this done once and for all instead of using it as a political football?”

The 2010 Census shows that Hispanics and Latinos are the largest minority group in the country. Democrats want a pathway to citizenship for illegals and also border security. But Republicans have long held that tightening the border should come first. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 4/19/11]

Fox's Baier: “Law Penaliz[es] Businesses For Hiring Illegals.” From the May 26 edition of Special Report:

BAIER: [T]he U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Arizona's law, penalizing businesses for hiring illegals. The vote was 5-3 with one abstention. The justices rejected arguments that the states have no role in immigration matters, which could open the door to other challenges. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/26/11]

Fox's On-Screen Graphic: “Border Patrol Apprehended 445K+ Illegals Entering The U.S. In FY10.” From the April 19 edition of America Live:

[Fox News, America Live, 4/19/11]

Fox's On-Screen Graphic Announces Court Ruling On “In-State Tuition For Illegals.” From the June 7 edition of America's Newsroom:

[Fox News, America's Newsroom, 6/7/11]

Fox's Colby Uses “Illegals” Slur Twice. From Fox News' Happening Now:

JAMIE COLBY (anchor): A major shift in immigration policy. The Obama administration indefinitely delaying deportations of many illegals with clean criminal records, saying it'll let them focus their efforts on deporting the dangerous convicts and illegals who pose more of a security risk, but critics are arguing it amounts to backdoor amnesty. [Fox News, Happening Now, 8/19/11]

Fox's MacCallum Repeatedly Refers To “Illegals” While Discussing Health Care Reform. From the November 6, 2009, edition of America's Newsroom:

MARTHA MacCALLUM (anchor): Now, to Congress' plan to overhaul the nation's health care system. The House is going to vote on their health care legislation, we hear now, sometime probably late tomorrow. And there are a group of Hispanic lawmakers who are not at all happy about what's in this bill. They don't like the specific language in the Senate bill that would bar illegals -- illegals -- from participating in these federal insurance plans, even if they decide to use their own money to buy into the plan. President Obama spoke with one of them yesterday, and joining us now is the national chairwoman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Alci Maldonado. Good to have you with us ma'am, welcome.

ALCI MALDONADO: Thank you, I'm excited and honored to be with you, thank you.

MacCALLUM: Talk to me a little bit about -- you know, the main issue here is that in the Senate bill and in the President Obama-approved version of all of this, illegals would not be able to buy into this plan, and I think a lot of people understand why that would be. But in the House bill, which is known as H.R. 3962, in the House bill, the thinking is that if you allowed them to buy in, then at least they're covered, and they're not going to emergency rooms and getting covered by taxpayers in many cases anyway. What do you think about that?

MALDONADO: Well, Martha, let me begin by saying that it's very confusing, all of it is very confusing for everybody, and of course illegals. And I hate to call them that. OK. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/06/09]