Today Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace used the racially-charged word “illegals” to describe the young undocumented immigrants affected by the Department of Homeland Security's recent change in immigration enforcement policy.
Wallace's comment continues Fox News' pattern of peppering reports on the recent immigration policy change with slurs. On June 15, the day Obama announced the change in immigration enforcement policy, the network repeated the racial slur “illegals” fifteen times and used other slurs as well. Indeed, Fox News has habitually smeared undocumented immigrants with these pejorative terms.
Wallace's slur was also echoed by an on-screen graphic that appeared on the show:
Some Fox hosts have voiced their opposition to their co-workers' use of such smears. The Five's Bob Beckel has criticized his co-hosts for using the slur. Geraldo Rivera has called for media outlets, including his own, to stop using the cheap and dehumanizing terms:
Like the words 'Jew' or 'slob' or 'slut', the phrase 'illegal alien' has the elegance of being harsh, but defensible, if accurate. Although it can be used as a cutting reference, it can still be uttered in polite company without fear of raising many eyebrows, especially among those who feel similarly negative about the individual being described.
“Illegal alien” is a cheap shot. The oft-used plural of the adjective “illegal” as in “illegals” isn't even recognized as an English noun by Microsoft Word.
It is stigma piled on stigma, and the potential consequences to a person so described following a judicial finding can be devastating. Anyone who suggests that deportation isn't punishment is being disingenuous. So, if you insist on using the ungrammatical slur, at least await a finding of illegality before branding usually hard-working, otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants snared by authorities.
In an interview with Media Matters, he elaborated, saying he has made his opposition to such phrases “very, very clear” to Fox employees “from top to bottom.” He also stated: “I think the combination of those two pejoratives, 'illegal' and 'aliens,' is really a way to demean people, to separate people.”
Furthermore, The New York Times and the Associated Press have both dropped the use of the word “illegals” from their style guides, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has encouraged news organizations to use “undocumented” instead of “illegal.”
But Wallace and others at Fox News apparently still haven't gotten the message.