As members of Florida’s Cuban-American community blocked highway traffic during solidarity protests showing support for the ongoing protests in Cuba against that country’s dictatorship, Fox News handled the story a lot differently than it did protests about racial justice last year.
These highway blockages are supposed to be illegal in Florida as a result of a statute passed in the state last year, as part of its crackdown on the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. However, both the authorities in Florida and top conservative media outlet Fox News are handling this current legal violation a lot differently than they did protests about racial injustice.
A July 13 editorial in The Miami Herald has pointed out the obvious hypocrisy of the whole situation:
Florida’s misbegotten anti-riot law leaves even peaceful demonstrators subject to being arrested if a protest is arbitrarily deemed a “riot.” The law explicitly makes blocking a highway a felony offense. Worse, it gives civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters who are blocking a road — basically, encouraging haters to do just that.
Here’s what the governor said when he signed the blatantly un-American bill into law: “Just think about it, you’re driving home from work and, all of a sudden, you have people out there shutting down a highway, and we worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen in Florida.”
But it did happen in Florida, Gov. DeSantis. Demonstrators shut down State Road 826 in both directions Tuesday in solidarity with their counterparts in Cuba. Police obliged and redirected traffic. Mercifully, no one roared through the crowd in a vehicle.
The Fox News homepage Wednesday morning presented the Miami protesters’ act of blocking a highway in a heroic light and shifted the political burden to President Joe Biden to meet their demands. The linked article also carried a sympathetic headline, “Cuban American protesters shut down expressway in Miami, blame Biden for lack of support.”
Notably, during Wednesday’s edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox’s Miami-based correspondent acknowledged that no demonstrators had been arrested in this instance. But he did not comment further on the double standard, instead framing the protesters’ actions as part of “their strategy to get attention” to oppose the Cuban regime.
Since at least 2016, Fox News has covered instances in which Black Lives Matter activists blocked highway traffic. In 2016, then-Fox News contributor Todd Starnes wrote an opinion piece accusing protesters of having “laid siege” to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, by blocking traffic on a highway. “Yet Memphis police officers were told to stand down and allow the agitators to block the Hernando-Desoto Bridge,” Starnes wrote. “They used to call that kind of behavior aiding and abetting. Not a single person was arrested.”
Fox has also given plenty of news coverage to protesters who were arrested for blocking traffic. In fact, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson spoke with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, lauding him for the anti-“riot” law. “Ron DeSantis is standing apart from so many of our elected leaders, even Republicans,” Carlson said, while both he and DeSantis, as well as on-screen text, touted that the new law would make blocking traffic a felony.
Fox News has been engaged in a larger, intense propaganda campaign against racial justice protests in the United States. Last year, the network openly supported vigilante violence against protesters, while also spinning conspiracy theories about non-violent protests and presenting viewers with an image of “dangerous violence” while, at times, literally showing video clips of peaceful activities.
And in August 2017, following the murder of an anti-racist demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fox published (and later quietly removed) an online post “advocating that cars drive into liberal protesters attempting to block traffic.”