After right-wing media outlets spread a completely false story from the Murdoch-owned New York Post about homeless veterans being kicked out of a hotel in upstate New York to make room for undocumented immigrants, multiple Fox News and Fox Business hosts and anchors read the same short, scripted statement acknowledging that the story was false. They also gave a disingenuous promise to provide viewers more information “as we get it,” ignoring the extensive information already uncovered in the last week by both local news outlets and national reporters, which could demonstrate in full detail to Fox viewers that the entire story was an elaborate lie.
According to a Media Matters review of internal video archives, Fox News and Fox Business previously discussed the story for a total of nearly 67 minutes in the days between the New York Post’s first report on May 13 and when the hoax was exposed by local reporters on May 18. The two networks have since given the story just over 5 minutes of airtime as of 2 p.m. ET today, mostly in the form of prepared statements seemingly approved by Fox's legal team.
Fox News’ corporate cousin the New York Post first ran the front page story on May 13, carrying the sensational headline “Outrage grows over vets evicted from New York hotels to house migrants.” Following several days of right-wing media outrage about the supposed mistreatment of American veterans on behalf of asylum-seekers, the story was thoroughly debunked by an article from the Mid Hudson News, a comparatively tiny local paper, published on the evening of May 17. This reporting revealed that no such group of veterans had been housed at the hotel in question, and that a receipt provided by a local foundation purportedly paying to house them at that hotel was really a digital forgery. The paper also discovered that the head of the local foundation had recruited homeless men to pretend to be veterans, allegedly providing them with lunch and drinks plus the promise of $200 each (which has not been paid, either).
The Times Union, a local paper primarily serving Albany, New York, offered further reporting discrediting the hoax on May 18. Task & Purpose, a specialized publication focusing on military service members and veterans, published an exposé about the perpetrator of the hoax itself on May 22.
Somehow, none of this news was broken by Fox News itself or any other outlets in the right-wing echo chamber, and Fox's viewers still haven't been given the full story about how this supposed scandal was in fact a fabrication. When the story first began to unravel, the best response Fox could muster was that the network was now looking into reports that the story was misleading. In fact, by this time the hoax had already been exposed completely.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 24, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo read the first of a series of nearly identical statements by Fox personalities: “We want to update you on a report last week claiming that upstate hotels in the Orange and Rockland counties, including the Crossroads Hotel, evicted a group of homeless veterans. We’ve since learned that veterans advocates misled local officials, and it now turns out those eviction claims were false. We want to update you on the story, make sure the record was set straight, and we’ll get more to you as we get it.”
Further statements followed from Fox Business host Stuart Varney, as well as Fox News anchor Dana Perino (the latter also quickly gave away Fox’s lack of any real concern for the homeless):
Putting the three on-air personalities’ statements side-by-side, it quickly becomes very clear that the network had provided all of them with the same script, specifically including the name of the local hotel, to make it clear that the hotel had not evicted any such veterans:
Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner also delivered the same so-called “update,” a far cry from her own disgraceful record of previously covering the hoax as if it had been true.
The statements kept coming through 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with co-host Emily Compagno reading the prepared statement on Outnumbered, as well as Fox News senior vice president and managing editor of business news Neil Cavuto doing the same for his midday show on Fox Business, followed by Fox News anchor Sandra Smith on America Reports.
Keep in mind that Fox News just agreed to pay a $787.5 million defamation settlement to voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, for the network’s role in spreading baseless conspiracy theories that the results of the 2020 presidential election had been rigged. The network also still faces a $2.7 billion lawsuit from voting systems company Smartmatic.
But just as Fox’s defense of its purported news coverage cannot erase the network’s disgraceful record as a propaganda outlet, these quick acknowledgments of another false story also don’t just undo the extensive airtime the network gave to the hoax. The simple reality here is that Fox is fundamentally not a news organization.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network for the term “illegal” or any variation of any of the terms “migrant,” “immigrant,” or “evict” within close proximity of any of the terms “veteran,” “vet,” “homeless,” “disabled,” or “shelter” and within close proximity of any of the terms “hotel,” “Yerik Israel Toney Foundation,” “Newburgh” (including misspellings), “Orange County,” “Super 8,” “Hampton Inn,” “Middletown,” “Hudson Valley,” “Crossroads,” or “New York” from May 12, 2023, when the New York Post first published the allegations, through 2 p.m. ET on May 24, 2023.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the New York Post story about hotels in the upstate New York area that had displaced homeless, disabled U.S. military veterans in favor of migrants or undocumented immigrants was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the story. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the story with one another.
We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the story without another speaker in the segment engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the story scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute.