After cementing its status as a serial COVID-19 misinformer, Fox News is now using concerns about the virus spread to fearmonger about immigration -- despite no evidence tying a coronavirus outbreak to the border.
The United States has been experiencing an increase in the number of migrants at the southern border since March, and most recently there’s been an influx in the number of Haitian migrants arriving in Del Rio, Texas. This increase can be attributed, in part, to the July assassination of Haiti’s president and the country’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August that affected 1.2 million people, including over half a million children.
The Biden administration has continued the Trump-era enforcement of a public health policy called Title 42, which allows immigration authorities to expel migrants at the border without giving them a chance to apply for asylum. While the current administration carved out exceptions for unaccompanied minors, a federal judge recently issued a halt on the use of Title 42 to turn away families, which the White House is in the process of appealing.
But in the last few days, Fox hosts have accused Biden of assaulting “American sovereignty” with his immigration policy and claimed that people carrying COVID-19 are coming across the border “in the thousands,” which sets up a “perilous” situation for border states.
In reality, while the U.S. has undoubtedly been seeing an increase in the number of migrants apprehended at the border since March, the surge of COVID-19 cases didn’t start until about late June and even later in some states. And the states seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases are not just border states, but states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.
As William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, has said, any immigrant contribution to the spread of COVID-19 is “akin to pouring a bucket of water into a swimming pool” due to the high transmission rate in the U.S. already.
But ironically, Fox News appears to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously only when the issue can be used to fearmonger about migrants at the border. Since the start of the pandemic, Fox has served as one of the chief misinformers. In just two weeks in March and April 2020, Fox had baselessly promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for COVID-19 300 times. The network pushed COVID-19 misinformation 253 times in five days in July 2020, declared a war on masks, repeatedly undermined vaccine efforts and promoted a livestock medication as a potential coronavirus cure.
Here are a few recent examples of Fox News figures fearmongering about immigration by playing on people’s COVID-19 concerns:
- During the September 20 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham called Biden’s “subversion of U.S. immigration law is a direct assault on American sovereignty.” She said the consequences of this supposed open-door policy, including “every disease that is spread,” is on Biden.
- While speaking to Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) during the September 21 edition of Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner said: “About 3% of that country, Haiti, was vaccinated for COVID, and look at how many of them are here. Even if you had 3% of those amassing at our border -- I mean, the state of Texas, your state Arizona -- it is a perilous thing what we’re facing now.”
- During the September 22 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum reported that people crossing the border are not being tested or vaccinated, before repeatedly questioning how “easy” it would be to require vaccinations. She also suggested there is a double standard because “Europeans are not allowed in and neither are Brits.”
- During the September 22 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity discussed Haitian migrants in Del Rio, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis, a national security crisis, and a public health crisis.” Hannity went on to insist migrants need to be vetted because, in part, “we need to know that you don’t have COVID-19 or any other disease.”
- Fox Nation host Lara Logan told MacCallum that “everywhere that there’s been a mass migration of illegal immigrants, there has been a spike in COVID cases,” during the September 21 edition of Fox’s The Story. Logan then went on to say, “Bioweapons specialists and intel agents tell me that that's typical of how you would disperse a virus if you were doing something like a virus bomb or a virus attack in your own country or in another country.”
- Fox News contributor Tom Homan, who served as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the Trump administration, told anchor Sandra Smith that “COVID is coming across that border by the thousands.” During his appearance on the September 21 edition of America Reports, Homan went on to reiterate that immigration is now a “public health issue.”
- In a report on the border during the September 20 edition of Fox News’ The Story, MacCallum asked national correspondent Bill Melugin, who was reporting from Del Rio, “No COVID testing going on down there, right?” Melugin responded there are “no vaccine mandates, no COVID testing.” MacCallum then mentioned that Biden would mention during his U.N. speech how well the U.S. has handled COVID-19.
- During the September 20 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, reporter Lawrence Jones interviewed a “Texas landowner” and wife of a Border Patrol agent, who claimed, without evidence, that there are “confirmed contagious illnesses” among the migrants in Del Rio, including cases of tuberculosis, AIDS, and chicken pox, and that they’re “waiting on confirmation” on cases of leprosy and measles. She also claimed COVID-19 is “spreading like wildfire” among the migrants as well.