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Fox News fearmongered about migrants and the immigration system in at least 693 segments in a 12-week period

In the 12-week period from March 22 through June 11, Fox News personalities and guests fearmongered about migrants and the immigration system in over half of all segments that discussed immigration by implying that migrants are dangerous, falsely claiming they are an economic drain, and pushing racist conspiracy theories about migrant culture.

  • Media Matters reviewed our internal archive of weekday Fox News segments for statements that fearmongered about immigrants from any of three possible angles of attack. We looked at statements that implied migrants were dangerous (such as claiming migrants are a national security threat, major infection vectors, prone to criminality, or would “take over” border towns), claims that suggested they are an economic drain on Americans, and those that argued immigrants are a threat to American culture. Segments could -- and often did -- include more than one of the three attacks.

  • Key Findings

  • Of the 1,366 total immigration segments on Fox over this period:

    • 605 emphasized danger by framing migrants as a threat to Americans.
    • 149 suggested that migrants are an economic drain on Americans.
    • 35 peddled racist conspiracy theories about migrant culture as a threat to American culture, including pushing the white nationalist “great replacement” theory.
  • Segments that fearmongered about migrants were nearly evenly divided between the network’s so-called “news” (338) and “opinion” (355) shows.

  • The Fox shows that aired the most segments fearmongering against migrants and the immigration system were Fox & Friends (167), America’s Newsroom (112), America Reports (64), Hannity (61), and The Story with Martha MacCallum (51).

  • Fox News’ immigration coverage is spreading fear

  • The tactics Fox News uses to cover immigration issues have an enormous impact. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans who primarily consume news from right-wing sources like Fox say reducing illegal immigration should be a top foreign policy priority -- a 32% increase over other Republicans.

    Despite ample reporting providing context for the causes of the recent surge in migrants seeking asylum, Fox has consistently and inaccurately described the situation as a new and unique “crisis.” Now, the amount of attention given to the border on Fox News has forced other networks to follow suit with their coverage.

    Fox News consistently talks about immigration more than its cable new counterparts. When its coverage is overwhelmingly negative and meant to induce fear of migrants, the national dialogue becomes clouded with misinformation.

  • Fox’s misleading coverage portrays migrants as dangerous

  • From March 22 through June 11, Fox News personalities and guests fearmongered about migrants by portraying them as dangerous in 605 segments -- 44% of all immigration segments on the network.

    Statements promoting the myth of immigrant criminality were by far the most prevalent tactic Fox used to suggest that migrants were dangerous; Fox personalities and guests brought up stories about immigrants, migrants, or cartels committing crimes or dealing illicit substances in 429 total segments.

  • Video file

    Citation From the June 2, 2021, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Despite decades of right-wing media claims that migrants are responsible for a disproportionate share of criminal offenses, there is zero evidence supporting that idea. In reality, research has repeatedly shown that there’s “no causal connection between immigration and crime.” For instance, a 2019 report from libertarian think tank the Cato Institute found undocumented immigrants in Texas committed fewer crimes on average than native-born Texans. 

    Accusing migrants of being “diseased” is another longtime anti-immigrant talking point, but amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, immigration coverage from right-wing outlets over the last 16 months has been particularly reckless and unfounded. In March, Texas loosened coronavirus restrictions early and conservative pundits quickly scapegoated migrants to explain the state’s high infection rates, even though doctors on the border said increased immigration is “far from the biggest factor in containing the virus’ spread.” 

    Following suit, Fox personalities and guests suggested that immigrants or migrant workers are a major infection vector in 96 segments.

    Fox News’ newest immigration expert, white nationalist Stephen Miller, said on the April 5 edition of Hannity, “What is happening on the border right now, Sean, is the single greatest epidemiological disaster in this country. You have 10 emergency shelters that are open right now. Children are packed together, not even remotely socially distanced. And of course they are not vaccinated. Of course they are not masked. You have people showing up in mass, in large groups that are getting each other sick, that are getting community sick, that are getting border agents sick. This is a public health catastrophe.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 5, 2021, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • In 101 segments, Fox News personalities and guests also explicitly described illegal immigration as a national security threat -- a repeated claim made by right-wing media and politicans with zero evidence to support it. In the same Hannity segment featuring Miller, Fox Nation host Lara Logan went on to say that “the most troubling thing that I am hearing is that while this border is wide open, there are people coming from Cuba, from Russia, from Haiti, from Yemen, from Syria. From countries where the government has a nexus with terrorism.”

    Fox figures demonstrated a pattern of repeatedly suggesting that migrants will “take over,” “infiltrate,” “invade,” or “overrun” border towns or the broader United States. Personalities and guests leveraged this not-so-subtle language in at least 86 segments over this period.

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 13, 2021, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • Fox falsely depicts migrants as a drain on the U.S. economy

  • Fox News also fearmongered about immigrants by inaccurately suggesting they are an economic drain and inherently costly to the U.S. taxpayer. Despite overwhelming evidence that has repeatedly shown that immigrants contribute greatly to the economy, Fox personalities and guests made statements claiming the opposite in 149 segments during the studied time period. 

    One frequent way Fox stoked these fears was by suggesting that immigrants collect a disproportionately high share of public assistance. Network personalities and guests repeated this claim in 46 segments over the 12-week period, such as when Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain suggested on March 23 that “welcoming in migrants from Central America” is “coming at the expense of a limited number of resources that we are depriving of Americans.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the March 23, 2021, edition of Fox News' The Faulkner Focus 

  • But the truth is just the opposite. Both documented and undocumented immigrants actually contribute a disproportionately high share to federal public benefit programs. Additionally, while legal immigrants are ineligible for federal public benefit programs until they have held lawful permanent resident status for at least five years, undocumented immigrants are almost entirely barred from federal public benefit programs -- even though both groups contribute the same proportion of taxes from each paycheck as any other U.S. worker.

    In 32 segments, Fox New personalities and guests baselessly suggested that migrant children are a burden to the United States educational system. The reality is that recent reports have found that an influx of refugees had “zero estimated effects” on educational outcomes of other students, while the Brookings Institution noted that “having more immigrant peers appears to increase U.S.-born students’ chances of high school completion.” 

    Despite these findings, Fox & Friends led the field in pushing this attack, accounting for 40% of these segments on Fox.

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 2, 2021, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • For several days, Fox News led a crusade to sensationalize a story about efforts to provide migrant teenagers with schooling while being held at the San Diego Convention Center, falsely suggesting that public school teachers were giving “migrant kids in-person instruction before their own students.” In fact, migrant children were not being prioritized for in-person learning over San Diego students -- instead, 13 local teachers had volunteered to work with the migrant students during spring break.

    For decades, Fox News has propagated the inaccurate claim that U.S. workers lose jobs to migrant workers due to increased immigration. Despite broad consensus that migrant workers do not “steal jobs” from Americans, Fox viewers were presented with this line of attack in 19 segments.

  • Video file

    Citation From May 5, 2021, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle

  • Fox pushes racist conspiracy theories against immigration, including the white nationalist “great replacement” narrative

  • A pernicious and conspiratorial claim throughout both Fox’s “news” and opinion shows is the idea that Democrats want to liberalize immigration policy in order to broaden their voter bloc.

  • Video file

    Citation From May 31, 2021, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

  • In at least 32 segments during these 12 weeks, Fox news personalities and guests repeated similar claims. Typically these narratives are hidden behind thinly veiled arguments about shifting voting blocs to suggest that increased immigration will help Democrats at the polls -- a subtle variation on the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims that native-born white citizens are being intentionally and systematically replaced by nonwhite immigrants. But recently, after years of dog whistles, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson finally stopped mincing words.

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 8, 2021, edition of Fox News' Fox News Primetime

  • These racist assaults on migrants and the immigration system go beyond bad-faith partisan attacks -- they are lies and misrepresentations being intentionally deployed to scare Fox’s viewers and demonize immigrants.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on Fox News Channel (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) from March 22 through June 11, 2021, for instances of Fox News personalities or guests fearmongering against migrants and the immigration system in the United States from three different attack angles.

    1. Emphasizing danger by:

    • Providing disproportionate coverage to stories about migrants, immigrants, or cartels that have committed crimes.
    • Framing immigration as a national security issue.
    • Suggesting that migrants are a major coronavirus infection vector. 
    • Suggesting immigrants “overrun” border towns or “infiltrate” the United States.

    2. Claiming migrants are a financial drain by:

    • Dismissing or misrepresenting economic statistics related to immigration.
    • Suggesting that immigrants collect a disproportionately high share of public assistance.
    • Claiming U.S. workers lose jobs to immigration or migrant workers.
    • Suggesting that migrant children are a burden to the educational system.

    3. Attacking migrant culture by:

    • Suggesting that immigration will dilute national integrity or heritage.
    • Complaining about immigrants speaking different languages.
    • Complaining about migrant cultural integration in schools.

    Analysts counted any segment if it included at least one statement that fit within any of the three main attacks detailed above. A second analyst independently reviewed the video and transcript of all identified segments in their entirety. We counted each unique piece of misinformation within an attack angle once per segment. 

    We defined segments as: unique instances of host monologues, which we defined as instances when the host spoke on one or more topics at length without turning to a guest or correspondent for a follow-up discussion; correspondent reports, which we defined as instances when a correspondent filed a packaged news report or reported live from the scene or when a host read headlines or news briefs; interviews with guests, which included solo and joint interviews; and guest panels, which we defined as instances when multiple guests were interviewed in a panel format for the express purpose of presenting contrasting points of view.

    We split Fox programs into “news” and opinion sides. We defined “news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined opinion programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor or host’s author page on We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as opinion programs.