As President Joe Biden’s administration attempts to grapple with an increase in migrants seeking asylum at the border, several initiatives to provide aid to the migrants have come under attack on Fox News. In an attempt to demonize aid to Central America and other programs, network figures have pivoted to complaining that the money isn’t going to help homeless populations in the U.S. -- despite Fox’s years of coverage grossly dehumanizing homeless people and attacking any humane initiatives to reduce homelessness.
Some of the administration’s efforts that Fox News is attacking include $86.9 million to “provide hotel rooms and other services to families who cannot be expelled under a public health rule in effect at the border" and a proposal to create a “conditional cash transfer program to help address economic woes that lead migrants from certain Central American countries to trek north, as well as sending COVID-19 vaccines to those countries.” Fox News has responded to these efforts in part by complaining that homeless Americans, particularly children and veterans, are not receiving similar treatment.
Outside of immigration-related news cycles, Fox News has an abhorrent record when it comes to covering homelessness. Media figures on the network have relentlessly attacked humane efforts to reduce homelessness -- including a push in San Francisco at the start of the pandemic to house homeless individuals in hotels -- and have repeatedly used vulnerable homeless populations as a cudgel to attack Democratic politicians and cities. Fox News also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the pandemic to fearmonger about homeless people, and the network’s monthslong focus on demonizing homeless populations in 2019 nearly led to a crackdown by the Trump administration on homeless encampments in California.
For all the faux concern expressed by media figures on Fox, it’s clear that Fox News’ sympathies do not lie with the people experiencing homelessness; hosts and guests often refer to homeless people with language like “filth” or “zombies,” and they were silent about the Trump administration’s lack of serious interest in tackling America’s homelessness crisis. Hosts' and guests’ solutions to homelessness typically center the criminalization and detention of homeless people, while providing housing is often dismissed as a solution.
In January 2020, Fox News prime-time host and white supremacist sympathizer Tucker Carlson -- who has recently attacked aid to migrants by pointing to existing homelessness in the U.S. -- aired a weeklong special titled “American Dystopia,” which dehumanized homeless people in San Francisco and blamed Democratic officials, telling his audience,“This is what they would like to do to your neighborhood.” In 2019, Fox host Jesse Watters complained about “drugged-out zombies” and called for authorities to “bulldoze the 50-block radius, and you institutionalize everybody.” (Watters has been doing dehumanizing segments about the homeless on Fox News for years). And less than one year ago, Fox host Brian Kilmeade complained that the “San Francisco homeless population” is “living large” because they were being temporarily housed in hotels during the pandemic.
Yet now, when presented with the opportunity to attack aid for migrants, network figures and guests have repeatedly invoked homeless populations as a way to push the myth that helping immigrants deprioritizes Americans, calling on the Biden administration to instead use the money to pursue efforts to reduce homelessnes.
Here’s some examples of Fox News’ coverage:
- On April 13, Kilmeade said that “the American people should have a say on the amount of checks we're writing to other countries in a time in which we’ve got 500,000 homeless living on the streets.”
- On Fox & Friends on April 9, Kilmeade complained that money is going to help migrants at the border when there’s “500,000 homeless people around the country.” Kilmeade also complained that “our kids have to take a back seat” and “move to the back of the line.”
In the same episode, Kilmeade agreed with Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) when he complained that the Biden administration “rolled out the red carpet” for migrants and that he wishes “this administration would have that same type of passion and care for our ... homeless population across the country."
Fox News host Tucker Carlson complained on April 5 that immigrants can “break into our country and in return, we give you free housing and medical care,” but “last night more than half a million Americans spent the night in makeshift shelters or on the streets.” The Fox prime-time host added that instead of helping the homeless, “the administration is boasting about all they're doing for the people who have demonstrated pure contempt for our system.”
- On March 30, America’s Newsroom guest and Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb complained that the Biden administration is “rolling out the red carpet for these folks, when all the while we have homeless and veterans that need help.”
- Fox News Primetime guest host Rachel Campos-Duffy dedicated an entire segment on March 29 to comparing the treatment of homeless Americans with immigrants. Campos-Duffy asked former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson: “If there is an ability by the U.S. government to open up our bases or pay for hotel rooms, shouldn't they have first been offered to American homeless families, or in particular American veterans who are homeless?” Carson agreed and complained that “virtue signalers” claim that they “are the most compassionate people” when “that’s not true,” adding, "It really is kind of sickening to watch it going on.” Curiously, Carson did not mention any specific policies to reduce homelessness that he had pursued during his four years as HUD secretary in the Trump administration.