Jesse Watters Boada Double Bird Immigration

Research/Study Research/Study

Manufacturing Fear: How Fox News leveraged images of an exonerated 22-year-old to fearmonger about migrant crime

Fox News has aired images of Jhoan Boada flipping off the media in at least 66 segments since his arraignment

  • On January 27, blurry CCTV footage in New York City's Times Square captured two police officers being beaten up by a large group of men while they were trying to arrest someone. A few days later, Fox News began flooding its airwaves with footage of a suspected perpetrator, Jhoan Boada, 22, flipping his middle fingers to a media gaggle. Fox leveraged those images of Boada to add outrage to its ongoing campaign smearing migrants as criminals.

    The only problem? Boada had nothing to do with the crime. 

  • From February 1, the day after Boada was released following his arraignment, through March 10, Fox News aired footage of him or alluded to Boada in at least 84 segments, including 66 segments showing images or b-roll of the 22-year-old. Notably, Fox's supposed “news-side” shows aired nearly as many images (31) of Boada as the network’s opinion-side programs (35).

    Fox News seemingly has not yet corrected or updated its on-air reporting since Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg officially exonerated Boada on March 1. Meanwhile, images of Boada continue to be misappropriated across the right-wing media ecosystem, including in a pro-Trump political ad titled “Joe Biden’s middle finger."

  • Prime-time host Jesse Watters’ February 1 segment illustrated Fox's prevailing narrative about Boada’s release, saying: “A gang of migrants broke into the country, pummeled two NYPD officers, and while walking out of jail without bail, flipped the double bird to the country that let them in. The two birds heard around the world. The symbol of the Biden presidency right there.” Watters concluded that “America's biggest enemies” are now “sending brigades of migrants with smiles plastered all over their faces because they know there's no resistance.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the February 1, 2024, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

  • Jhoan Boada had nothing to do with the attack on police officers in Times Square in January. But Fox News' misleading coverage of that story as part of its manufactured fearmongering campaign against Biden’s border policy risks exacerbating the threats migrants already face in the United States and the broader immigration system.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Boada” (including misspellings), “double bird,” or “flip off” or any of the terms “migrant,” “immigrant,” or “illegal” within close proximity of any of the terms “arrest,” “assault,” “attack,” “disrespect,” “respect,” “finger,” “bird,” “flip,” or “flick” and also within close proximity of any of the terms “New York,” “Times Square,” “Time Square,” or “NYC” from February 1, 2024, the day after Jhoan Boada showed media his middle fingers following his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court, through March 10, 2024.

    We included segments, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host introduced a new topic and then either spoke on that topic at any length or turned to a network correspondent or reporter or to guests to continue discussion on that topic.

    We then reviewed claims, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on any topic referenced Boada in any fashion. For host monologues, headlines, and correspondent reports, we defined a claim as a block of uninterrupted speech between read quotes and played clips. We did not consider the speech within the quote or clip unless a speaker in the segment positively affirmed said speech either directly before or after the quote was read or the clip was played.

    Within the identified segments that included a claim, we reviewed the entire segment for whether Fox News aired b-roll of Boada giving double middle fingers to the media. We also looked for whether Fox personalities or guests updated the story to reflect that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg exonerated Boada and dismissed all charges against him from March 1, 2024, when Bragg's office made the announcement, through March 10, 2024.