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Study: Fox News ran nearly 400 weekday segments on “migrant crime” in the first 10 weeks of 2024

Fox News spent the first months of 2024 blaming President Joe Biden for an unverifiable surge of violent “migrant crime” as the right-wing network geared up to try to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House. In reality, immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans, violent crime reportedly continues to fall from its Trump-era heights, and there is no evidence of a migrant-driven crime spike.

Fox ran at least 388 weekday segments that featured significant discussion of “migrant crime” from January 1 through March 8, according to a Media Matters review. Only 11 of those segments even hinted at the idea that on the whole most migrants are not criminals (that tally includes segments criticizing politicians or journalists at other networks who made the point).

  • Fox has designed its coverage to stoke its audience's fears that migrants will endanger their families and spur anger at Biden for purportedly allowing them to do so. The network is flooding the airwaves with reports about individual cases in which Americans have been “brutalized by illegal aliens,” using the anecdotes to conjure up a wave of “migrant crime” purportedly hitting the U.S., and attributing those tragedies to “Biden’s open border,” while dismissing data and arguments to the contrary.

    Prime-time host Jesse Watters distilled the network’s narrative: “There is a migrant crime spree killing Americans and the president is an accessory to murder.”

    Fox ran only a handful of segments about “migrant crime” in each of the first four weeks of the year. But over the following six weeks, the network averaged more than 12 segments each weekday.

    The network’s “migrant crime” coverage spiked dramatically on January 31, when Fox personalities became fixated on footage from New York City’s Times Square which they alleged showed a group of migrants beating two police officers. Fox ran 63 “migrant crime” segments from January 29 through February 2, and 71 more from February 5 through February 9. Dozens of segments featured footage of a suspected perpetrator — who was later exonerated of any role in the attack — flipping his middle fingers to a media gaggle.

    Coverage declined from that peak over the next two weeks, though Fox continued a steady drumbeat of reports on the purported criminality of migrants. But it reached a new height of at least 119 weekday segments in a single week in late February as the network devoted substantial attention to the story of Laken Riley, a Georgia student allegedly killed by an undocumented Venezuelan man. Fox subsequently began scouring the country for other cases in which undocumented immigrants had been charged with horrific crimes.

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  • While Fox’s prime-time lineup of propagandists like Watters, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfeld have all devoted time to the “migrant crime” story, it is primarily a creation of the network’s daytime and “straight news” programs. The three-hour morning show Fox & Friends ran the most “migrant crime” segments, with 90, while America’s Newsroom (two hours long)  contributed 64 and America Reports (two hours) 51. Other Fox programs which aired more than 15 segments about “migrant crime” include Fox News @ Night (49 segments), The Faulkner Focus (27), The Story with Martha MacCallum (19), Special Report with Bret Baier (17), The Ingraham Angle (16), and Outnumbered (16). 

    Fox’s incendiary, zone-flooding coverage is in sync with Trump's talking points. The former president claims to have personally invented the term “migrant crime” and has made warnings about it a fixture of his public remarks and interviews. 

    “Our cities are being overrun with migrant crime, and that’s Biden migrant crime. But it’s a new category of crime and it’s violent,” he said in his Super Tuesday victory speech.

    While it is notoriously difficult to draw timely and insightful conclusions from available crime statistics — and data involving migrant offenders is even more limited — the story Fox and Trump are peddling doesn’t hold up. Here’s why:

    1. Studies show that immigrants commit crimes, including violent crimes like homicide, at lower rates than native-born Americans. Moreover, available data “indicates that a relatively small percentage of undocumented immigrants have committed crimes (excluding the fact that they are in the country without authorization)” and also suggests undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than either native-born Americans or legal immigrants.

    2. Violent crime plummeted in 2023, continuing the downward trajectory from its recent peak under Trump’s presidency in 2020. Nearly every type of crime assessed by the FBI fell, with murder doing so “likely at one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded,” according to the crime analyst Jeff Asher. He added, “The quarterly data in particular suggests 2023 featured one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the United States in more than 50 years.”

    3. There is no evidence of a “migrant crime wave” sweeping the country this year. In fact, “an NBC News review of available 2024 crime data from the cities targeted by Texas’ ‘Operation Lone Star,’ which buses or flies migrants from the border to major cities in the interior — shows overall crime levels dropping in those cities that have received the most migrants.”

    4. The standard Fox/Trump narrative that Biden is deliberately allowing migrants into the country for sinister purposes is wrong. Biden’s administration actually “removed a higher percentage of border crossers in his first two years than Trump did during his last two years ... despite Trump having to deal with many fewer total crossings” — but many more migrants are trying to cross into the United States without sufficient legal avenues to do so, and operational capacity to detain and deport them is limited.

    5. Republicans killed a bipartisan, Biden-backed bill that would have provided increased resources to build the operational capacity to detain and deport more migrants. They did so explicitly because Trump wants to use border chaos to boost his campaign and opposed the legislation.

  • Fox’s narrative may not comport with actual crime data, but the network’s propagandists are happy to build a Trump campaign issue around vibes and anecdotes as they gear up for another presidential election as his minions.

  • Methodology

    Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for segments that analysts determined to be about immigration and crime, from January 1, 2024, through March 8, 2024.

    We included segments, which we defined as instances when migrant crime was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of migrant crime. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed immigration with one another.

    We did not include mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned migrant crime without another speaker in the segment engaging with the comment, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about migrant crime scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We then reviewed the identified segments for whether any speaker in the segment noted that migrants commit crime at a lower rate than natural-born U.S. citizens or that a majority of migrants are not criminals.