Fox cheers the deployment of armed federal agents in major cities

Jesse Watters

Fox News figures are praising President Donald Trump’s deployment of armed federal agents to protest sites in Portland, Oregon — and his administration’s threats to do the same in other cities — despite the tactic’s dangerous implications.

The ongoing protests in Portland began nearly two months ago in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The demonstrations have largely remained peaceful, and while there have been some incidents of violence, local leaders have pointed out there was hardly a need for federal intervention. Yet last week, reports began to emerge of federal agents pulling protesters into unmarked vans and detaining them without explanation, ostensibly as part of an effort to protect federal property in the city. And now the Trump administration is sending a similar deployment in Chicago and potentially other major cities as well.

The legal underpinnings of the deployment are constitutionally dubious, as experts have noted, and Oregon’s attorney general recently filed a lawsuit against multiple federal agencies in response to how they have detained protesters. Even though federal agents are supposedly there to quell violence, their presence could actually have the opposite effect. Since their arrival, tensions have escalated, and at least one protester was hospitalized after being shot in the head with a projectile fired by federal officers.

For weeks, Fox News has been feeding its audience wildly inaccurate caricatures of protests in cities across the country, suggesting that urban areas are being consumed by violence and encouraging Trump to reestablish “law and order.” Now, Fox hosts and guests are responding to a blatant political move — one that they helped inspire — by suggesting the deployment of federal troops to Portland and other cities is a necessary measure to quell violence, rather than simply a ploy to boost Trump’s reelection chances.

  • On July 21, Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham criticized Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for announcing that she did not want federal agents in Chicago to be used against residents in the same way they have been in Portland. “Always the nefarious description of law enforcement,” Ingraham argued. “She’ll accept some federal presence but clearly not enough.” Fox contributor Sara Carter praised the Trump administration’s actions and said, “President Trump is doing the right thing. He is speaking about law and order, and law and order is necessary for our society to move forward.”
  • During an interview with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on July 21, Fox host Sean Hannity defended the Trump administration deploying federal forces, claiming, “When the president helped in Minneapolis, it worked. When he helped in D.C., it worked. It would work in New York, it would work in Portland, it would work in Seattle, and it would work in Chicago.” Later in the interview, Hannity presented a hypothetical scenario in which troops fired on demonstrators, asking, “If federal troops are brought in, … then they have to fire to protect themselves or others, who gets the blame for that?” Cotton responded, “Ultimately, the blame lies with criminals.”
  • Earlier in the same show, Hannity was outraged by criticism of Trump deploying federal agents. He claimed, “They are angry President Trump is protecting federal property. They spend more time lecturing the president than the anarchists that are violent, that are committing acts of arson and looting. I am having a hard time understanding this mindset that your hatred of Donald Trump surpasses your desire for these people to protect their men, women, and children.” Fox correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera responded that there is “a ghetto circular firing squad” in Chicago while Trump’s critics “obsess about demonstrators being herded off the street.”
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Citation From the July 21, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • On July 21 on Outnumbered, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway defended the deployment of federal agents, arguing that “restoring rule of law is a constitutional obligation, not a threat.” During the same segment, co-host Harris Faulkner pushed back on claims that federal agents in Portland were unidentified, explaining that acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli told her those claims are untrue.
  • Fox guests have compared the Trump administration’s use of armed federal agents to the United States government enforcing racial desegregation policies. Appearing on America’s Newsroom on July 21, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp claimed, “President Eisenhower used federal resources to help Black kids integrate schools and to protect them. In these cities, the overwhelming number of victims are people of color, are young Black kids, and I think we need to use federal resources to make the murders, make the arson, make the violence stop.”
  • Earlier that morning on Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich cited the investigation of the Freedom Summer murders, asking, “At what point does the president of the United States have an obligation to defend innocent Americans whose city governments refuse to defend them? You may remember, in the ‘60s, the government sent the FBI into Mississippi when civil rights workers were being killed and it was clear that the local police would not hunt down who killed them.”
  • On the July 20 edition of his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs praised the actions of federal agents, saying, “Federal officers once again had to use tear gas and force to break up the lawless mob of antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters.”
  • Dobbs later interviewed Cuccinelli, telling him American cities are “this close to an insurrection” and concluding, “It’s time to — well, to do what you’re doing, and we appreciate everything you are doing.”
  • On the July 20 edition of The Five, co-host Jesse Watters referred to the tactic of pulling protesters into unmarked vehicles as a “traditional law enforcement deescalation tactic” and as an example of “good policing.”
  • On July 20, Fox & Friends guest co-host Griff Jenkins said, “The administration seems firmly behind what they are trying to do to bring back some semblance of society, Steve, to what’s going on in Portland.” Co-host Steve Doocy responded, saying, “A threat to democracy? I don’t know. If you live in Portland, Oregon, wouldn’t you want this to stop?”
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Citation From the July 20, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • On the July 19 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee pointed to the integration of Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School as precedent for deploying federal agents. Huckabee said, “The federal government has every right, but they have responsibility to protect that property and to keep some semblance of the civil rights of all of American citizens in place. And if the local officials won’t do it, then the federal government has to do it.”
  • During the same show, guest co-host Jason Chaffetz commented on the deployment of federal agents, claiming, “The president, I think, has been somewhat restrained because this has gone on for so long, the violence is so aggressive.” Co-host Jedediah Bila said, “We see how the Trump administration is handling this. President Trump taking a serious stance, being a law-and-order president.” In the same segment, Jenkins read a statement from a Chicago police union president and said that “the police [are] reaching out to the president for help because they are at their wits end.”
  • Seattle-based radio host Jason Rantz appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on July 17 and defended the tactics of federal agents, saying, “I’m glad, finally, President Trump is stepping up here and sending in the federal government.” Rantz claimed that videos of arrests made by the agents circulating on Twitter did not include proper context and are serving as antifa “propaganda” and that unmarked vehicles were necessary to prevent these agents from being assaulted, and that detaining individuals in this way actually reduces violence. Rantz said, “When you’ve got marked vehicles, when you’ve got Portland Police trying to make arrests, they face assault. … You’re doing this in a way that basically makes it so that there’s not going to be violence.”
  • On July 17, Outnumbered co-host Jessica Tarlov raised concerns about the presence of unidentified federal agents detaining protesters. Tarlov asked, “What are those people doing walking around in unmarked uniforms picking up protesters?” Co-host Melissa Francis responded by claiming, “The line between protester and someone who’s been behaving violently has blurred quite a bit. … We don’t know what those people were doing who we’re calling nonviolent protesters.”
  • On July 17, Rivera criticized Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for saying federal agents should leave the city and said, “I think that what Mayor Wheeler is doing is totally disconnected from the feelings of most Portlanders. Most of the people in Portland, Oregon, want a safe city. … DHS is exactly right to be there.”