Right-wing media were furious over exclusion of citizenship question from census

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

After the Justice Department confirmed that the 2020 census would not include a question about citizenship status, right-wing media expressed disappointment and outrage at the Trump administration and attacked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for rejecting the administration's reasoning for adding the question. 

Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s stated reason for adding the question. Roberts, a conservative justice, wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, saying that the Trump administration’s argument for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” The decision came weeks after evidence was found in the files of late Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller that suggested “the question was crafted specifically to give an electoral advantage to Republicans and whites.”

Though the decision left open the possibility that the Trump administration could provide a stronger argument, the Justice Department unexpectedly announced on July 2 that it had dropped the question from the census. According to The Washington Post, “The decision was made after officials determined that there would not be enough time to continue the legal battle and meet the printing deadlines for the census questionnaire.” 

Right-wing media responded to the news by attacking Roberts, arguing that Trump should not have caved so easily, expressing outrage and disappointment over the apparent defeat, and arguing that this further proves Democrats care more about undocumented immigrants than Americans. 

Trump appeared to take their bait, tweeting on July 3 that reports “about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect” and “we are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” However, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross had already confirmed on July 2 that “the Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” and Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco also confirmed that there will be no citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Here’s what right-wing media figures said about the census question to provoke the president’s apparent reaction:

Attacking Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts 

Conservative commentator Bill Mitchell said Roberts’ decision was “nonsensical and specious.” He claimed Roberts’ is “clearly compromised.” 

Conservative commentator Ned Ryun claimed, “We’re in trouble when the Chief Justice of our SCOTUS doesn't think we should ask a citizenship question on the census.” Ryun asked, “Have we completely lost our minds??”

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, claimed, “Chief Justice John Roberts has forever harmed the country with his petulant ruling on the census.”

Arguing that the Trump administration should not have caved

National Review’s Dan McLaughlin called the decision a “completely unforced error.” He added that the “court confirmed that Trump had the power to [add the question], if the Administration had handled it competently.” 

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton said that the Trump administration “should continue to try to move this issue through the courts in time for the 2020 census.” He also insisted, “Of course U.S. Census should try to figure out how many Americans and non-Americans are here.” 

Conservative commentator Steve Deace sarcastically responded to Trump’s tweet about the Supreme Court decision, tweeting, “If only, like, you ran the branch of government in charge of executing the census.” Deace went on to say: “Imagine the constitutionally-mandated power you could wield to undo such an unAmerican travesty? But alas, since you're totally helpless, no bueno!”

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt claimed that callers in to his radio show were “shocked” that Trump “threw in towel on #2020Census case.” Hewitt claimed, “There are ways to revive the case, but it sounds like a complete loss.” 

Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter agreed with Hewitt, saying that he “laid out how exactly to get this question on the census” and urging Trump to “fire anybody who gets in the way.” 

Hewitt called the case “one of the biggest legal defeats of the Trump presidency” if “the case is truly over.” Hewitt also wrote that he is “very surprised” Trump “surrendered without a battle on this issue.” 

Expressing outrage and disappointment that the question wouldn't be included

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned if “the administration use[d] the right move” and asked why the administration didn’t “use different means to present [the] case.”

On his Fox Business show, host Lou Dobbs claimed the Trump administration is “giving up the fight.” Dobbs disappointedly added that the Trump administration could have argued the case further, but “the White House apparently determined it just simply didn’t have the time to do so.” 

Conservative commentator Mark Simone sarcastically asked, “If we allow the census to ask if people are citizens, then what's next? Cops asking drivers if they have a license? Ushers asking people if they have a ticket? Train conductors asking to see your ticket? Customs asking to see your passport? Where will it end?”

Arguing that Democrats prioritize “illegals” more than Americans and undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be counted in the census

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk suggested that Democrats “need the illegal aliens' votes,” urging his followers to share his tweet “if ONLY US citizens should be counted on the Census!”

Newsmax TV host John Cardillo said, “It is absolutely moronic that we cannot ask if someone’s a citizen on the 2020 Census.” He added, “This is all about diluting the value of US citizenship and putting illegals on equal footing.”

Responding to a user who questioned the legality of the question, Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak insisted that “it had been on the Census before” and “Democrats just don’t want you to know how much your vote is diluted by non-citizens and illegal aliens.” 

Deace insisted, “There’s no way to spin it. Illegals matter more than you.” He berated the government for not bothering to find “out if you’re in the country illegally or not,” adding sarcastically, “Happy 4th!”  

The Federalist’s Benjamin Weingarten said that the “long and short” of the case is that Democrats “don't want you to know how much non-citizens including illegals diminish your vote.” In a second tweet, he said, “This issue further incentivizes open borders and sanctuary city policies to the detriment of law-abiding American citizens.”

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton claimed “the Left wants to effectively erase citizenship, which is why they oppose a Census question that would uncover how many non-citizens in United States.”

One America News Network -- one of Trump’s favorite media outlets -- tweeted: “Democrats hope to turn red states blue by counting illegals on census.”

OANN’s Jack Posobiec insisted, “No serious country would count non-citizens in a census or twist itself in knots over if it were even able to.”

Anti-Muslim group ACT for America tweeted, “Only US CITIZENS should be counted on the US Census!”

Priests for Life National Director Frank Pavone insisted that “citizenship carries certain privileges. How are we supposed to know whether someone is entitled to such privileges or not?” Pavone answered his own question, saying, “By asking the question, of course.”