Fox News is using falsehoods to discredit an immigration reform rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., claiming that activists were given preferential treatment by the Obama administration to stage their protest while parks remain closed. In fact, the National Park Service made it clear a week before the protest that First Amendment activities on the Mall and at Memorial Parks would be exempt from closures.
Immigration Reform Activists Stage Rally Under First Amendment Rights To Call For Comprehensive Bill
Politico: Immigration Reform Supporters Host Rally To Pressure Lawmakers On Comprehensive Bill. As Politico reported, thousands of immigration reform supporters, including members of Congress, staged a protest on the National Mall on October 8 to pressure lawmakers to act on immigration reform:
Nationwide demonstrations calling for comprehensive immigration reform culminated with a rally in Washington on Tuesday to forcefully press lawmakers to overhaul the nation's immigration laws this year.
In an attempt to ramp up the heat on their colleagues, eight members of Congress joined advocacy leaders and were arrested in a show of civil disobedience designed to send a message to act on immigration reform - an issue that has so far stalled on Capitol Hill amid a showdown over fiscal policy.
The White House applauded the efforts of the demonstrators in a statement Tuesday night and demanded that House Republicans “put politics aside” to pass immigration reform.
“The enthusiastic demonstration of support for immigration reform this week has proven to Congress that the broad coalition behind commonsense solutions to our nation's broken immigration laws is as strong as it has ever been,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
The federal government shutdown, which has shuttered much of the Mall, threatened to interfere with the long-planned rally. But the National Park Service allowed the event to proceed because it fell under a First Amendment category, an event spokeswoman said. [Politico, 10/8/13]
WSJ: Immigration Rally Allowed To Proceed Under First Amendment Rights. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the rally was allowed to go on at the National Mall even though national parks were closed because the protest fell under First Amendment rights:
Immigration advocates will rally Tuesday on the otherwise shuttered National Mall, their permit valid due to an exception granted events where people are exercising their First Amendment rights, a spokesman for the National Park Service said Monday.
“Employees are furloughed,” said spokesman Mike Litterst, “but the First Amendment continues.”
Mr. Litterst, of the park service, said that the rules are the same for the immigration rally as they are for any other group claiming to be exercising their First Amendment rights at national parks or memorials.
For instance, he said, anybody claiming this right can just show up at the war memorial and view it from the designated First Amendment area, he said; groups of 26 or more need a permit.
“Under the same First Amendment rights that are allowing Honor Flight veterans and their families to visit the veterans memorials on the National Mall, other groups will be granted access to the park for First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service established regulations,” he added in an email. [The Wall Street Journal, 10/8/13]
Fox News Baselessly Claims Protesters Got Preferential Treatment
Host Megyn Kelly Accused National Park Service Of “Double Standard” For Letting Rally Take Place. Discussing the rally on her show, Megyn Kelly suggested immigration reform activists were given preferential treatment to host their protest on the National Mall, claiming the National Park Service was using a “double standard” in the way it was enforcing parks closures. However, as her guests pointed out, veterans have not been shut out from accessing the Mall. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/9/13]
Kelly Claimed Rally Was An Example Of The Administration Giving Out “Special Favors For Those Who Are Its Allies.” Megyn Kelly claimed the immigration rally was an example of the Obama administration giving out “special favors for those who are its allies.” She added that the administration “is trying to make a special point against others to try to underscore the damage of a government shutdown. In other words, show how bad it is to the World War II vets, that will get people outraged over congressional Republicans, but open the gates of the National Mall ... for the administration allies to make a bigger point on immigration reform.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/8/13]
Host Dana Perino Claimed Immigration Rally Was A “Political Favor” To Obama's Campaign Supporters. Discussing the government shutdown on The Five, co-host Dana Perino claimed that the immigration rally was an example of “political favors” from President Obama “for the people that support your campaigns and your agenda but not for America's veterans or for people that want to drive by and take a picture of Mount Rushmore?” She added: “It all seems just so petty. I do think that this will come back actually to hurt the president.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/8/13]
Contributor Katie Pavlich Accused White House Of “Playing Politics” By Letting Rally Proceed. On The Five, Fox Newscontributor Katie Pavlich accused the White House of “playing politics” by letting the immigration rally take place, claiming that it denied a request from veterans to visit the World War II Memorial. She added: “It's important to point out that the very people who fought for the freedom of the immigration rally today to have the First Amendment right were locked out of their own memorial and the White House stood by and watched. And that is asinine.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/8/13]
Host Greta Van Susteren: “I'm A Big Fan Of The First Amendment But What's Going On? Are We Picking And Choosing?” In a segment on the rally, host Greta Van Susteren accused the White House of “picking and choosing” to enforce who could access the National Mall. She stated: “The World War II Memorial was blocked off this past week. And the Pentagon is not paying for thefamilies of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the past weekend to fly to Dover for the transfer ceremony tomorrow when the remains come back to the United States -- yet there's a protest about immigration on the Mall? I'm a big of the First Amendment but what's going on? Are we picking and choosing?” [Fox News, On The Record With Greta Van Susteren, 10/9/13]
Fox News Twice Hosted Discredited Anti-Immigrant Dennis Michael Lynch To Attack Rally. Fox News hosted discredited anti-immigrant filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch on two separate occasions to attack the rally. He repeatedly accused House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Obama for letting immigration reform activists host the protest on the Mall and smeared protesters as “illegals.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/8/13; America's Newsroom, 10/9/13, via Media Matters]
In Fact, National Park Service Issued Memo Outlining First Amendment Exemption A Week Before Immigration Rally
NPS: Closure Of Parks “Does Not Apply To First Amendment Activities In The National Mall And Memorial Parks.” In a memo dated on October 1, the first day of the government shutdown, National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis outlined how the government shutdown would affect national parks nationwide, writing that First Amendment activities would be exempt from closure:
Pursuant to 36 C.F.R. 1.5, effective at 12:01 a.m. on October 1, 2013, all units of the National Park System nationwide are closed to public visitation and use, subject to the conditions and exceptions described below.
This closure determination and notice does not apply to First Amendment activities in the National Mall and Memorial Parks and areas administered by the NPS Liaison to the White House in Washington, D.C., and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Persons may continue to conduct First Amendment activities in these units in accordance with existing regulations. [National Park Service, 10/1/13]
Associated Press: “Veterans Granted Access To World War II Memorial On 1st Amendment Grounds, Despite Shutdown.” As the Associated Press reported, veterans groups wishing to visit memorials are being granted access under First Amendment rights:
Veterans groups that planned trips to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall are being granted access despite the government shutdown, while the Republican National Committee offered Wednesday to pay for guards to keep the site open.
More than 125 World War II veterans from Mississippi and Iowa were initially kept out of the memorial Tuesday, but members of Congress intervened and helped push aside barriers to escort the veterans into the memorial. National parks across the country closed Tuesday due to the federal budget impasse.
Now the World War II Memorial has become a political symbol in the bitter fight between Republicans and Democrats over the government shutdown and who is at fault.
The park service already made provisions Wednesday to allow veterans groups into the memorial during the government shutdown. Spokeswoman Carol Johnson said the Honor Flight Network, which brings World War II veterans to Washington, is being granted access to conduct First Amendment activities at the memorial.
“The National Park Service depends on congressional appropriations to stay open,” Johnson said in a statement. “Without staff or funding to ensure the safety of visitors, the security of the memorials, and the continued operation and maintenance of park facilities, the memorials on the National Mall -- just like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon -- are closed.” [Associated Press, 10/2/13]
Immigration Rally Was Bipartisan, Attended By Both Democrats And Republicans
The Atlantic Wire: “Many Have Latched On To The Idea That The Nation's Parks Are Being Deliberately, Unnecessarily, Closed ... To Punish Americans.” In a report highlighting conservative outrage over the immigration rally, the Atlantic Wire noted that “many have latched on to the idea that the nation's parks are being deliberately, unnecessarily, closed by the Obama administration during the shutdown in order to punish Americans,” but that the rally was in fact attended by both Democratic and Republican congressional members. From the article:
As you might imagine, some conservatives are pretty bitter over the immigration event, after taking ownership over a story of veterans who were initially prevented from visiting their own World War II memorial hours after the shutdown began last Tuesday.
The rally was attended by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. But some, off of the assumption that only Democrats support a path to citizenship (and because the rally was specifically calling on House leadership to allow a vote on an existing immigration bill), assume that President Obama is allowing events that promote his own agenda. One anti-immigration activist pretty directly distilled a secondary source of outrage for some conservatives to the Daily Caller: that “it's OK to barricade elderly veterans out of their memorials, but illegal immigrants have to be accommodated no matter what.”
The rally itself was a culmination of several immigration reform events around the country on Saturday. [The Atlantic Wire, 10/8/13]
NY Times: “Several House Republicans ... Appeared At The Rally To Call For Bipartisan Efforts To Pass An Immigration Overhaul.” In an article on the rally, The New York Times reported that several House Republicans, including “Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida, and Jeff Denham and David Valadao, both of California,” attended the protest “to call for bipartisan efforts to pass an immigration overhaul.” [The New York Times, 10/8/13]