Frederick County, Maryland, Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Jenkins, a regular Fox News guest, has been indicted for conspiracy and false statements in an illegal machine gun acquisition scheme allegedly carried out over more than six years. During that time, Jenkins appeared on Fox News to repeatedly demonize immigrants, paint them as criminals, and call for harsher penalties to be levied against them.
Jenkins has also been embraced by right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation and nativist organization the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Last October, Maurice Chammah of the Marshall Project characterized Jenkins as “a leading member of a constitutional sheriff movement,” which holds the legally unfounded belief that county sheriffs are the supreme legal authority in the country.
In the indictment, the Department of Justice alleges that Jenkins and co-conspirator Robert Justin Krop illegally acquired fully automatic machine guns, which are typically not available for civilian commercial use. Jenkins allegedly worked with Krop to fabricate “law letters” on sheriff’s office letterhead that falsely stated the machine guns would be used in demonstrations for law enforcement, but that Krop later rented the weapons out through his business, appropriately called The Machine Gun Nest. The DOJ claims the scheme yielded more than $100,000 for Krop’s business in 2018 and 2019 alone, and that Krop offered Jenkins political support in exchange for his role in the conspiracy.
Jenkins has denied the charges and remains in office. A Jenkins spokesperson told The Washington Post in response to the indictment: “We all, as an agency, believe in him. There are a lot of people in this county who believe in him as well.”
The alleged conduct dates back to 2015 and continued through 2021. Jenkins repeatedly appeared on Fox News in that period, frequently linking immigrants with organized gang crime and anti-social violence more broadly. He regularly touted the importance of enforcing laws and maintaining rigid border control.
In April 2016, Jenkins testified before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, warning that “if this Congress and the next President do not take action to close and secure the border with Mexico and simply enforce the federal immigration laws that exist, every county in America will become a border county.”
The following evening, Fox host Sean Hannity asked Jenkins about his comments. “Sheriff, you made a very powerful statement, and you said every city is going to be a border city,” Hannity said. “What did you mean by that?”
“Well, Sean, what I mean was: I've been to the border,” Jenkins replied. “I saw the impact of illegal immigration on the border counties. So I truly believe that if we do not seal the border, build the wall, start to enforce the laws the way they're written, every county will become a border county.”
That appearance set a template that the network and Jenkins repeated over the next five years.
In early 2018, Jenkins was back on Fox to blur the lines between undocumented immigrants and MS-13 in what would become a recurring theme. After meeting with then-President Donald Trump, Jenkins said Trump would “declare war” on MS-13.
“We would not allow ISIS, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban to flourish in our communities,” Jenkins said. “Let’s go after them, let’s get the full force of the law behind us and let’s root them out of our country.”
“Tell me what you thought of the president going in and the way he was thought to take this problem with illegal immigration as it relates to MS-13, and what do you think now?” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked.
“Well I know, I knew going into the room he takes it seriously,” Jenkins responded. “We have a president who does take it seriously. He will bring down the full force of federal law enforcement, of Department of Justice to go after these criminals. I agree with him 100%.”
That May, Jenkins appeared again on Fox & Friends, this time to argue that a purported uptick of women and girls joining MS-13 justified a nativist immigration policy response.
“Are they converting Americans into their gang lifestyle?” Kilmeade asked.
“I think we see both situations,” Jenkins replied. “More so bringing from El Salvador young women into the gangs. Listen, the gang members have always had home girls, their girlfriends, but now they're actually pulling them into the criminal activity.”
“What I'm afraid of is we're going to take it lightly,” he continued. “Law enforcement is not going to pursue it. There’s going to be leniency because of gender, because of children. And I'm really worried where this is going to go if we don't get serious about it.”
The next month, in another segment on MS-13 featuring Jenkins, Kilmeade said that “when a kid comes across and says, ‘I’m a refugee,’ but he’s got neck tattoos, that might be the first clue” that they’re a member of the gang.
“That is a clue,” said Jenkins.
“We haven't done enough yet,” he added later. “What we need to do is a push from this administration, from the Justice Department, to declare this organization a terrorist organization and clean them up, get them out of here, and get them out of this country.”
That July, Jenkins claimed that activists who wanted to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “want open borders, they want no law, they want lawlessness.”
In September 2018, Jenkins attacked liberal cities and states that opposed Trump’s immigration policies.
“Sheriff, does it frustrate you and other men and women in your position that there are sanctuary counties, sanctuary cities, sanctuary states that do not cooperate with ICE?” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked.
“It sure does,” Jenkins responded. “You know, we all feel the impact of this all across the country. When we have a county or a state that borders us that's a sanctuary county, we certainly feel the impact because criminals know no borders.”
“When you look at that flag, with the blue line, what do you see?” Doocy asked.
“I see the dedication of the job that men and women do in law enforcement every day by going out there and, you know, sometimes putting their lives at risk,” Jenkins responded.
“This thin blue line is the difference between a civilized society and total chaos,” he added.
The following February, Jenkins appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show in another segment that equated undocumented immigrants with criminality and disorder. The discussion was pegged to a recent court decision allowing Trump to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities.
“My next guest says Montgomery County has become a hotbed of illegal alien crime and now it's bleeding into his county, Frederick County,” Ingraham said to introduce Jenkins.
The sheriff then claimed the purported problem went back years.
“Prior to them even declaring sanctuary status, we were seeing the criminal element, the criminal illegal aliens come up from Montgomery and P.G. [Prince George’s] Counties, bleed into Frederick County, and we've been dealing with the crime,” Jenkins said.
In February 2021, Jenkins returned to Fox & Friends to discuss a Biden administration’s policy that would restrict ICE’s ability to deport undocumented immigrants.
“They will not deport people who are in this country illegally if they get a DUI, assault, money laundering, property crimes, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, or charges without convictions,” Doocy said. “So for a variety of crimes, despite the fact you were in the country illegally, sheriff, they won't deport you.”
“They won't, Steve, and one thing that's always considered in the deportations is the criminal histories,” Jenkins said. “So regardless of the felony, regardless of the event, the crime, these people are going to roam our streets with impunity.”
“This is total lawlessness,” he added. “We have to have interior enforcement along with strong border security or we have no laws.”
That April, Jenkins appeared on Fox & Friends Weekend, warning that MS-13 posed a potential physical safety threat to every person in the United States. The segment was ostensibly in response to the Los Angeles district attorney’s decision not to pursue enhanced gang charges after an alleged MS-13 member attacked a trans person, but functioned as another opportunity for Jenkins to paint migrants as dangerous threats.
“You said this is coming to a town near you, that MS-13 is proliferating,” co-host Will Cain said. “Are we to assume, are we to know that with the surge at the border, included among the migrants are more gang members like those from MS-13?”
“Absolutely correct,” Jenkins said. “You're going to have a huge increase in gang members, cartel members, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and again, these criminals don’t stay in the border counties.”
“They infiltrate the entire United States,” he continued. “We're looking at a national tragedy.”
Jenkins is one of several far-right sheriffs who have made names for themselves on right-wing media. In Arizona, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels also regularly demonized immigrants in his media appearances, including on Fox News. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has built a mini-empire with his exposure on conservative outlets and branded himself as America’s sheriff. Like Jenkins, both are linked to the constitutional sheriffs movement.