Fox News is now aggressively pushing misleading claims stemming from its corporate cousin The Wall Street Journal’s last week’s reporting about the Justice Department negotiations to settle lawsuits brought on behalf of undocumented immigrant families who suffered under the Trump administration’s deliberate separation of children from their families, a policy that ended in 2018 after widespread public outrage.
The key thing to understand is that the Trump administration policies were deliberate acts of cruelty, with multiple top officials arguing that the forced separation of families would deter migrants from coming — making it not a matter of administration or personal welfare, but of cruel and unusual punishment.
On Wednesday, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked President Joe Biden during a press briefing whether the settlements “might incentivize more people to come over illegally.” Biden retorted that the incentive would come from Fox spreading a “garbage” story and that reported payments of $450,000 per person were “not going to happen.”
CNN reported Thursday morning that the Justice Department is now making it clear that the $450,000 figure is too high for any settlement. “DOJ communicated Wednesday night that the numbers reported in the press are higher than anywhere that settlement can land,” said American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The parties continue to negotiate.”
The major problem with Doocy’s question on Wednesday was that he framed it around undocumented immigrants being incentivized by an expectation of receving large payments — rather than putting the settlements in the context of the Trump administration’s abuses against undocumented immigrants in specific cases.
Doocy returned to the subject on Thursday’s edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, in which the anchor falsely described “a complete 180 tonight from the Biden administration” in its statements that the amounts were not going to be as high as $450,000 and that negotiations were still ongoing.
Doocy attempted to turn the situation into a gotcha moment: “And if officials around here say that $450,000 is too much, then we can accurately report that those payments will be up to $449,000, Bret.” He also claimed that “the president made it sound like the payments were completely out of the question. And now they're saying no, no, just the $450,000 payment.” (Biden had specifically referred to the dollar figure in their exchange the previous day.)
The Wall Street Journal’s report had sensationalized the actual numbers involved by leading with the claim that the administration was in talks to pay “around $450,000 a person.” The report later explained that “families would likely get smaller payouts, depending on their circumstances” and that “the number of families eligible under the potential settlement is expected to be smaller” than the total of 5,500 children who had been separated at the border during the Trump administration.
The article still explained other key pieces of information, although they appeared toward the end. For one thing, the Trump administration carried out these plans with no system or plans to track the children and eventually reunite them with parents. According to the piece, after the Trump administration ended the policy:
Many of the families filed tort claims, a type of civil claim seeking damages for loss or harm, asking for compensation to cover mental-health treatment to address the emotional and psychological toll the practice took. Some of the cases were resolved under the Trump administration. In a 2019 settlement in New Jersey, for example, an adult and a minor received a total of $125,000.
Most such cases remained pending at the start of the Biden administration.
Furthermore, Fox News is not going to be an unbiased source of coverage on this story. One of its frequent guests on immigration matters is former Trump adviser Stephen Miller — a longtime white nationalist who was a key architect of this policy and even proposed extending it further to migrants who presented themselves legally for asylum at ports of entry. (If the latter policy had been put into practice, it would have separated a further 25,000 children from their families.) Miller has also lied during his Fox appearances about the Trump administration’s failed track record of reuniting unaccompanied migrant children.
Miller appeared last week on The Ingraham Angle and attacked the reported settlement talks as being part of a giveaway to all undocumented immigrants.
“It's what's called the collusive settlement — illegal aliens suing the federal government for cash, and the government saying, ‘Oh, well, we'll give you all the cash that you want.’ It's collusion,” Miller claimed. “Let's be very clear. This is what happens when you go from an America first to an America last presidency — America first under Trump, now America last under Biden.”
Of course, Miller’s claim is a lie because previous settlements had occurred under the Trump administration, including one in the amount of $125,000.
Fox host Sean Hannity said on Monday night that the Biden administration planned to give “certain illegal immigrants” $450,000 for pain and suffering — “pain and suffering, by the way, that they caused themselves because they decided to violate our laws and not respect our borders and our sovereignty.”
And on Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that the administration now planned to “send $450,000 to every illegal immigrant who has been traumatized by our immigration laws. Reparations for illegals — hard to believe that's real, but it is.”
And on Thursday’s edition of The Faulkner Focus, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce made a similar allegation as Miller did about the lawsuit supposedly stemming from collusion — while also suggesting such a move violated the rights of Congress.
“It’s predicated on a lawsuit, and this is supposed to be a settlement — which I have discussed with you before that that’s what the left does,” Bruce said, laying out a supposed playbook in which an interest group files a lawsuit, then the administration responds with a settlement or a task force study.
“Because they can't legislatively solve any problems, so they just throw money at it” Fox anchor Harris Faulkner replied.
“That’s correct, it eliminates Congress,” Bruce said. “It allows you to do whatever you want to do.”