Fox News is exploiting the deaths of two women to fearmonger about the homeless

Sandra Smith on America Reports

Fox News’ coverage of the tragic killings of two women has fixated on their suspected attackers being unhoused and has used the random attacks to fearmonger about alleged explosive violent crime in major cities. 

Within the past week, two women, Brianna Kupfer in Los Angeles and Michelle Go in New York City, were killed by individuals whom the media and the police described as “unhoused” or “homeless.” Go’s alleged attacker also reportedly lived with mental health issues, with the NYPD saying he had a history of “emotionally disturbed encounters.” Fox News jumped on these stories -- devoting time on both its daytime and prime-time shows -- and used these deaths as a convenient rhetorical tool to bolster its oft-repeated claims that large cities with Democratic leadership, like New York and Los Angeles, are dangerous, violent places where homeless people can commit serious crimes with impunity. 

Fox News has turned what could otherwise be a chance to honor the lives of both Kupfer and Go into a cynical opportunity to demonize the unhoused and mentally ill populations. Some hosts went so far as to categorize homeless people as part of a “sub society” and “antisocial parasites” with a tendency for violent acts.

Although the two people suspected of killing Kupfer and Go are unhoused, a report from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance organization found it is a myth that unhoused people are more likely to be criminals or violent than housed populations. Deborah K. Padgett, a New York University professor and writer who studies homelessness, also debunked this notion, explaining in 2019, “Homeless persons are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Of course, some homeless individuals may commit acts of violence beyond self-defense but such acts rarely affect the non-homeless individuals they encounter.” 

Fox News ​​has focused ire on people experiencing homelessness for years, frequently fearmongering about vulnerable communities as well as progressive city and state policies. The network also has a long history of placing blame on progressive reforms and liberal leaders for spikes in crime, even though there are myriad reasons for such trends in crime statistics. Furthermore, it is faulty reasoning to pin blame for crime in big cities on the ideology or political leaning of the residents, and the FBI has urged caution against drawing such conclusions, stating it can “provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region.” 

During some of the network's segments covering these two recent random attacks however, Fox News figures tended to focus on the supposed threat of homeless people and major city crime over the lives of the two women. Here are some examples: 

  • During the January 18 episode of Fox and Friends, in discussion about Kupfer, co-host Ainsley Earhardt expressed fear about future attacks, saying, “That is what is so horrifying for every American, because this could happen to your child this could happen to us,” Earhardt also contextualized that Kupfer’s suspected killer could be a  “homeless guy” per the police.
  • In the same Fox and Friends segment on Kupfer, co-host Brian Kilmeade complained of "a homeless population [in Los Angeles] that has taken over the general population, where it’s totally unsafe to walk in places.” Kilmeade claimed that homeless people have “taken over. It’s like an ingrained city within a city. I don’t know when people are going to say, why am I paying in all these taxes, and why is this sub society able to thrive, and now they actually are lashing out and killing people.” Kilmeade also called Go’s attacker a “lunatic” and a “homeless guy with a long, huge rap sheet.”
  • During the January 18 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson began his show with an extended monologue about how liberal city leaders are “lavish[ing] money on the least productive, most antisocial parasites in our society.” Carlson tied his attack on the homeless people to Kupfer’s death, saying, “What has this done to L.A.? We don’t have to look far to see the answer to that. Last week, a homeless man walked into a furniture store in the west side of Los Angeles and murdered a graduate student who was working alone there. … She was 24. Now she’s dead.” 
  • On the January 19 edition of America Reports, after a correspondent report on Kupfer’s death, co-anchor Sandra Smith called her death “a horrific example of cities just dealing with this raging out-of-control crime. So much money has been thrown at the problem. But there’s the obvious observation of the homeless problem, the mental health problem and a very difficult situation to tackle this.”