REPORT: In Immigration Coverage, Fox Shuns Pro-Immigrant Voices

A year ago, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch claimed that Fox News is not “anti-immigrant,” a statement seemingly contradicted by near-daily segments on the network portraying immigrants in a negative light. Now, a Media Matters analysis of Fox News guests from April 2010 to June 2011 has found that of the guests Fox chose to discuss immigration, an overwhelming majority took anti-immigrant positions or held anti-immigrant views. In fact, our data show that anti-immigrant guests outnumbered those with a pro-immigrant point of view by a 3-to-1 margin.


On April 13, 2010, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the controversial immigration bill S.B. 1070 into law. S.B. 1070 makes the failure to carry documents proving legal status or citizenship a crime and requires police during any “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” to determine a person's immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an undocumented immigrant, among other provisions. Before the act took effect, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Arizona arguing that the statute was unconstitutional, and a federal judge issued an injunction preventing several provisions of the law from taking effect.

In the months that followed, several other states began considering stricter immigration laws, with new statutes passing in a number of them. Members of Congress also introduced and held hearings on legislation that would end birthright citizenship or require employers nationwide to confirm the immigration status of prospective employees.

On June 9 of this year, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama followed suit, signing an anti-immigration bill critics have called a “sweeping attack on immigrants and people of color.” The bill makes it illegal to knowingly transport an undocumented immigrant or rent them an apartment, and it requires schools to check the immigration status of their students and employers to check the legal status of prospective employees.

Overwhelming Majority Of Fox News Guests Held Anti-Immigrant Views

Only 18 Percent Of Fox Guests Were Pro-Immigrant, Compared To 62 Percent Anti-Immigrant. Media Matters examined Fox News coverage between April 13, 2010, and June 9, 2011, that included elected officials, members of advocacy groups, business leaders, pundits, and others discussing immigration. Of these appearances, 1,052 out of 1,697 -- over 62 percent -- held anti-immigrant views or adopted anti-immigrant positions. Only 18 percent of all guests (301 appearances) were pro-immigrant, while 20 percent (344 appearances) were neutral.

Anti-Immigrant Booking Was Consistent Across All Programs

No Fox Program Featured More Than 31 Percent Pro-Immigrant Guests. Special Report with Bret Baier and The O'Reilly Factor proved to be the most welcoming of pro-immigrant views. Of its 278 guests, Special Report hosted 87 who held pro-immigrant views -- 31 percent -- while the Factor had 47 pro-immigrant guests out of 158 for 30 percent.

Outside Of Special Report, Shows With More Than 100 Immigration Guest Appearances Featured Wider Anti-Immigrant Disparity. Greta Van Susteren hosted 239 guests to discuss immigration on her show, On the Record; of those appearances, 74 percent were anti-immigrant. On his show, Sean Hannity hosted 112 guests, of which 83 were classified as anti-immigrant -- 74 percent. Of the 270 immigration guest appearances on Megyn Kelly's America Live, 75 percent were anti-immigrant. Fox & Friends' 162 guests were 64 percent anti-immigrant.

Glenn Beck Featured Widest Disparity, With 88 Percent Anti-Immigrant Guests. Glenn Beck had 24 total guest appearances on the issue of immigration during the period we considered. None of the guests espoused a pro-immigrant position, three were neutral, and 21 -- 88 percent -- were anti-immigrant.

Case Study: Fox's Coverage Of S.B. 1070

In Weeks Following Passage Of S.B. 1070, Only One-Third Of Fox's Immigration Guests Were Pro-Immigrant. From the April 13 passage of the bill through April 30, Fox hosted 156 guests to discuss immigration policy. Eighty-four were anti-immigrant (53 percent), compared to 51 who were pro-immigrant (33 percent). On only one show did pro-immigrant guests outnumber those with anti-immigrant views: Happening Now featured eight pro-immigrant guests in contrast with seven who were anti-immigrant.

Van Susteren, Hannity Led The Anti-Immigrant Charge. During that period, Van Susteren hosted 21 guests to discuss immigration, 15 of whom were anti-immigrant. Sean Hannity hosted 19 guests, 13 of whom were anti-immigrant.

Guests Often Highlighted Supposed Lack Of Border Security. During that period, Hudspeth County, Texas, Sheriff Arvin West and several Arizona Republican lawmakers including Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, state Sen. Russell Pearce and state Rep. John Kavanagh, all appeared on Van Susteren's show to argue that S.B. 1070 is necessary because the border is, in McCain's words, “out of control.”

  • AZ Daily Star: Border Mayors Called On Sheriff To “Stop Fanning The Flames Of Fear About The Border.” On February 9, according to the Arizona Daily Star, several border town mayors sent Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu a letter asking him “to stop fanning the flames of fear about the border.” The letter read in part:

As Mayors of border communities from Arizona, we would appreciate it if you would not cultivate a culture of fear in our state and to start being accurate about border security. While your misstatements about efforts to keep communities along the U.S.-Mexico border may keep national media coming to Arizona, at the same time your consistent inaccuracies hurt cities and towns like ours by causing those who live and travel to the border to fear for their safety when in our communities. This damages our economy - driving visitors away and leaving our businesses and residents to suffer. The facts show that violent crime is down or remains flat in our border region as we are sure it is in your area as well. In 2002 it peaked at 742 per 100,000 residents but has since drastically dropped to 219 per 100,000 in 2009 (per the F.B. I. Uniform Crime Reports Program).


We know and understand that there is more work to do. We have seen significant progress being made every day. We trust that the federal government will continue to strengthen the ways it protects our citizens from the violence we see in Mexico. What our communities do need, is for Sheriffs like you to focus on building strong relationships and partnerships with local, state and federal governments and law enforcement agencies to help the efforts on strengthening security on our border. [Letter from border mayors, 2/14/11]

  • AP: “U.S.-Mexico Border Is More Fortified Now Than It Was Even Five Years Ago.” In June 2010, the Associated Press reported: “You wouldn't know it from the public debate, but the U.S.-Mexico border is more fortified now than it was even five years ago. Far more agents patrol it, more fences, barriers and technology protect it and taxpayers are spending billions more to reinforce it.” [Associated Press, 6/23/10]

For more on the myth that the border is not secure, click here.


Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of transcripts of weekday programs on the Fox News Channel, from 6 a.m. ET through the 10 p.m. ET hour between April 13, 2010 (when Brewer signed S.B. 1070 into law) through June 9, 2011 (when Bentley signed the Alabama immigration bill into law). For programs that were not available in either search database, we conducted a search through our internal archives. We identified and reviewed all segments that included at least three mentions of the word immigration or immigrant. When transcripts were incomplete, we reviewed video.

The following programs, which comprise Fox News' daily lineup, were included in the data: Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, Happening Now, America Live, Studio B with Shepard Smith, Your World with Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Fox Report with Shepard Smith, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

The Fox Report at 7 p.m. ET yielded no relevant segments for the purposes of our study and therefore was not included in the final tally.

Media Matters counted all guest appearances during segments that offered substantial discussion of immigration issues. Appearances by Fox News correspondents and packaged reports that included at least one guest appearance were included in the tally.

We used bios and profiles available online to confirm each guest's affiliation or title after they were identified by Fox. Guests analyzed included Fox News correspondents, contributors, and commentators, journalists, attorneys, activists, pundits, and elected officials (i.e. current and former congressional, state, administration members; current and former local, state, federal law enforcement) who appeared in on-air interviews, call-in spots, or packaged reports to discuss an immigration-related topic.

Guests were coded into three categories: anti-immigrant, pro-immigrant, and neutral. For the purposes of our study, a guest was labeled “anti-immigrant” if he or she was a member of a group that favors more stringent immigration policy, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA, or the Center for Immigration Studies, among others. Guests were also labeled anti-immigrant if they took positions in favor of S.B. 1070, the workplace immigration verification program E-Verify, the repeal of the birthright citizenship component of the 14th Amendment, the denial of certain social benefits to undocumented immigrants and their U.S.-born children, or to an enforcement-specific agenda that includes indefinite detainment and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, or a militarized border security presence. Those who reinforced negative stereotypes of immigrants were also put into the anti-immigrant category.

We coded as “pro-immigration” guests who were experts from progressive groups or pro-immigration groups such as America's Voice or the Center for American Progress, among others. They were labeled pro-immigrant if they favored comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act, or some other path to legalize undocumented immigrants. Guests were also labeled pro-immigrant if they expressed opposition to S.B. 1070 or similar legislation or to E-Verify, or if they discussed the benefits of immigration to the country.

Neutral guests were those who offered either a centrist opinion or no opinion at all or otherwise had no political orientation. These guests were more often than not immigration attorneys, government officials, or Fox News reporters or correspondents.

Political Correction researcher Salvatore Colleluori and Media Matters research intern Jake Miller contributed to this report.