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Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News' migrant crime fearmongering, by the numbers

Over half of Fox News' crime reporting in January and February was about migrant crime, with the network insisting on a “migrant crime wave”

Fox News’ latest obsession with a supposed migrant crime wave is dominating the network’s crime coverage. In the first two months of 2024, the network dramatically increased its coverage of crimes allegedly committed by migrants while dubiously suggesting this is proof of a  migrant crime crisis. As America heads into a presidential election this fall, the conservative news network is once again zeroing in on immigration and crime.

  • Fox News’ crime coverage in the first two months of 2024 has increasingly focused on migrants in liberal states

    • Of the 403 times Fox News reported on a crime in correspondent and headline reports, migrants were the alleged perpetrators 54% of the time.
  • Pie chart showing migrant crime reporting was 54% of all crime reporting on Fox News for the first two months of 2024
    • The Faulkner Focus was the news show with the most skewed coverage of crime focused on supposed migrant perpetrators on the network, with 85% of the 13 crimes reported on the show featuring migrant suspects during the time period studied. The next worst offender was Fox News at Night with 71% of its crime coverage focusing on migrant suspects.
    • Overall crime coverage increased by 274% from January to February, and migrant crime coverage increased by 880%.
  • Chart showing the increase of migrant crime reporting from January 2024 to February 2024
    • Fox largely focused on liberal states, with 91% of the network’s coverage of migrant crimes centering on states that Joe Biden won in the 2020 presidential election. By comparison, only 59% of nonmigrant crimes that Fox News covered occurred in states Biden won. Notably, the most-reported nonmigrant crime was the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs parade in Missouri.
  • Fox News latched onto two high profile crimes with migrant suspects to focus their coverage

    • Two incidents drove the spike in coverage and accounted for 56% of all migrant crime stories the network has covered beginning with the January 27 assault on two NYPD officers. That attack accounted for 63 of the migrant crimes mentioned, and the February 22 killing of Laken Riley accounted for 51. [CNN, 2/8/24; Associated Press, 3/8/24]
    • The NYPD assault appears to have sparked the initial emphasis on migrant crime stories, with Fox focusing on migrant crime in New York City. Half of the migrant crime stories reported on Fox News occurred in New York.
    • Fox News has aired images of an exonerated man flipping off the media in at least 66 segments since his arraignment. The man was wrongly arrested in connection to the Times Square attack and became the face of Fox News’ coverage of it. [Media Matters, 3/11/24]
    • Fox News frequently used Laken Riley’s tragic death as a means for correspondents to report on other migrant crimes and suggest a pattern. After Riley’s death, 57% of stories the network featured about migrant crimes were about her death.
  • Crime nationally has been on the decline and there is not significant evidence to support the idea of a migrant crime wave

    • Polling indicates that Americans think crime is worsening despite FBI statistics that show crime rates are decreasing. In the month following the release of the FBI’s quarterly crime report showing that crime is down, only one Fox News personality mentioned it. [Media Matters, 1/5/24]
    • Even though Fox News focused on crime in liberal cities, data shows that murder rates are worse in conservative-led states. One study found that “the red state murder rate was 33% higher than the blue state murder rate in both 2021 and 2022.” [Third Way, 2/28/24]
    • Americans think more migrants mean more crime, but that’s not what the data suggests. 57% of Americans believe that a rise in the number of migrants in the U.S. leads to more crime, but several studies appear to show that the presence of more immigrants either has no impact on crime or correlates to a reduction in crime rates. In fact, a recent study from Stanford University showed that immigrants are 60% less likely to be incarcerated than people born in the United States, suggesting that they do not raise crime rates. [CNN, 2/15/24, National Public Radio, 3/8/24]
    • Despite the focus on New York and migrant crime, it appears that since the influx of migrants to the city, the crime rate has stayed flat. [The New York Times, 2/15/24]
  • Fox News has a history of focusing on crime and immigration ahead of elections

    • Fox News has used migrant crime as a cudgel to attack Democrats in election years. In the lead up to the 2022 midterm elections, Fox News unfairly and repeatedly blamed migrants for the fentanyl crisis in America. [Media Matters, 10/4/22]
    • Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Fox News heavily emphasized crime, then abruptly dropped the subject after the election was over. In the week following the 2022 midterms, Fox News reduced its volume of violent crime coverage 63% from the week prior. [Media Matters, 11/17/22]
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on Fox News Channel (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for headlines and correspondent reports that analysts determined to be about violent or property crime from January 1, 2024, through February 29, 2024.

    We included correspondent reports, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host introduced a new topic and then turned to a network correspondent or reporter who provided a prepackaged or pre-recorded report or a live update from the ground to an ongoing story, and headline reports, which we defined as instances when the anchor, host, or headline reporter introduced a new topic and then spoke on that topic without turning to another correspondent or guest at any point during the discussion of that topic.

    We then counted correspondent and headline reports about crime, which we defined as instances when a specific violent crime (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) or property crime (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft), according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, was the stated topic of discussion or when we found discussion of a crime to be a “significant portion” of the report. We defined “significant portion” as instances when discussion of a crime constituted a plurality of the report's runtime.

    We then reviewed the identified reports whether the perpetrator of the crime was a migrant or not (regardless of their legal status).