Since August 2017, sheriffs associated with far-right and anti-immigrant groups have made at least 83 appearances on Fox News, pushing extreme narratives on immigration and gun control and boasting about their refusal to enforce coronavirus lockdown orders.
According to Media Matters’ internal database:
- 25 sheriffs associated with far-right and anti-immigrant groups made at least 83 appearances on Fox News since August 2017.
- Fox & Friends had the most appearances, with 20 sheriffs making a combined 33 appearances on the show.
- 17 sheriffs with affiliations to the “patriot” movement made appearances on Fox News during the time frame.
- 19 appearances from the sheriffs were on “straight news” shows, while 64 were on “opinion” shows.
Think tank Political Research Associates recently mapped the connections between leaders in sheriff departments nationwide and far-right and anti-immigrant movements. PRA looked at sheriffs with connections to the “patriot” movement’s Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and Constitution Club as well as the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform, two groups that the organization says encourage sheriffs “to become increasingly vocal supporters of right wing policies.”
According to PRA, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is the “flagship organization for law enforcement” of the “patriot” movement, a loose collection of extremist anti-government groups and efforts that tend to be pro-conspiracy theory and anti-gun control. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is engaged in “a concerted, long-term effort to recruit law enforcement officers into the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, known as FAIR, meanwhile, is a hate group “masquerading as a public policy think tank” founded by the late white nationalist John Tanton as a way to transform America into a majority-white state.
Using PRA’s map of far-right and anti-immigrant aligned sheriffs and Media Matters’ internal database of weekday cable news, which goes back to August 2017, we found that 25 such sheriffs have made 83 weekday appearances on the network. Of those, 8 had a connection to the “patriot” movement, 8 had a connection to FAIR, while another 9 had connections to both groups. Fox & Friends had the most appearances by right-wing sheriffs, with 33 of the 83 total appearances coming on the show. However, these far-right sheriffs weren’t just limited to “opinion” shows like Fox & Friends; 19 of the 83 appearances occurred on Fox’s “straight news” shows.
Over the past few years, Fox has used these sheriffs to push extreme stances on gun control and immigration. Most recently, Fox has hosted some of these sheriffs to boast about defying coronavirus lockdown orders. Overall, these sheriffs have aided Fox in pushing far-right talking points — notable as Fox continues to have major influence over policy changes from the White House.
Media Matters used Political Research Associates' map — which lists U.S. sheriffs’ affiliations with far-right and anti-immigrant movements and organizations — and then looked for any sheriff listed there who appeared on Fox News from August 1, 2017, through September 18, 2020, using our internal database of all cable news appearances. Our internal database covers all original weekday cable news programming from 6 a.m. to midnight.
PRA defined sheriffs as aligned with the “patriot” movement if the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association or the Constitution Club (another patriot movement group) had defined them as “constitutional sheriffs.” The organization connected sheriffs with FAIR based on invitations to a September 2019 “Immigration and Border Crisis Conference” or local news reports, photos, or public records requests.