Fox News obsessed over the prospect of an imminent, “catastrophic” migrant “invasion” in the days leading up to the May 11 expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allowed U.S. authorities to swiftly turn migrants away at the border. Network hosts warned that the border had been “effectively abolished,” and that migrants who received a “free pass” would be “saying hello to a suburb near you.” The Biden administration, they warned, was acting “intentionally” in ending the policy as it sought to carry out its “goal” to “fundamentally change America” by importing new “Democratic voters.”
This analysis was wrong – not that that’s deterred the Fox hosts who offered it. Migrant flows have actually declined since Title 42 lapsed, in part due to specific policies the Biden administration enacted that drew criticism from migrant advocates for restricting asylum claims. But Fox hasn’t changed course, and is continuing to sound the alarm that migrants are a threat to their viewers and that the Biden administration is at fault.
Immigration is the issue that best captures how Fox coverage seeks to keep viewers in perpetual fear of what they see on the screen. At its most sinister, the network promotes the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory that a globalist cabal is browning America for nefarious electoral purposes. But on a daily basis, its aim is to ensure that the audience feels that the country is under siege from migrant hordes and that the Democrats are at fault – even when reality contradicts their commentary.
Some at Fox have responded to their failed predictions by ignoring the unfavorable numbers and sticking to their script.
“Everybody knows that Democrats support liberal immigration policies and they like open borders because they want votes, and their donors want cheap labor,” Fox prime time host Laura Ingraham said a few days after Title 42’s expiration. “The only force capable of closing the floodgates is an angry and frankly energized American electorate.”
Host Sean Hannity likewise maintained after Title 42’s expiration that “the borders are wide open” and that President Joe Biden is “aiding and abetting lawbreaking.”
Others at Fox highlighted individual crimes allegedly committed in the United States by migrants and the prospect of terrorists captured at the border as additional reasons for viewers to stay scared.
“New reports suggest that there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about who’s coming across the southern border,” anchor John Roberts said at the top of a “straight news” segment. After correspondent Bill Melugin detailed reports that several individuals on the terror watchlist as well as an individual previously convicted for manslaughter had been taken into custody near the border, Roberts summed up: “Bad people still hungry to get into the United States.”
On Fox & Friends Tuesday, the hosts stressed the downside of Title 42’s expiration, with Pete Hegseth arguing that cartels abusing migrants waiting in Mexico was a sign of “a Biden border crisis absolutely out of control.”
The willingness of Fox hosts to promote any story that casts migrants in a bad light, no matter how far-fetched, can blow up in their faces. The network ran with the New York Post’s May 13 report that migrants had displaced 20 homeless military veterans “evicted” from two New York state hotels. Fox personalities highlighted the “disgraceful treatment” of veterans and their replacement by a “flood of illegal immigrants” – then the story was exposed as the result of a hoax.
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent recently noted that the right’s “fantasy that the border is constantly in chaos has become a marker of MAGA identity.” That illusion could not be sustained without the careful and constant efforts of outlets like Fox.