Fox News is aggressively pushing a false story that New York City under Mayor Eric Adams is providing “credit cards” that migrant families can use for frivolous or illicit purposes. In fact, the city is trying to streamline the aid it has provided migrant families for food and baby supplies by replacing packaged aid with debit cards, which the migrants can use for only those purposes.
New York City is not giving new money to migrants — the city is trying to cut the spending it’s already doing
The Associated Press has published a useful fact check of the story, containing a number of important points. First of all, the city is not creating a new benefit for migrants, as it has already been providing them with nonperishable food boxes. The intention of this new program is to provide direct financial assistance instead, which the migrants can spend only at local stores and only for either food or baby supplies.
Moreover, if the 500-family pilot program works as intended, the city projects that it will actually spend less money helping the migrants than it has been spending. The city has allocated $53 million, hoping to save $600,000 per month or $7.2 million annually from what it has been doing.
Also, in technical terms, they are not “credit cards,” as that would involve the migrants borrowing money from banks. Instead, the prepaid debit cards will be loaded with $12.52 per person, per day, and last for 28 days before needing to be refilled.
“We need to dispel the rumor that we gave American Express cards to everyone,” Adams said at a press conference Monday. “That is just not true.”
Fox’s corporate cousin, the New York Post, kicked off the story
The New York Post ran a story with the sensationalist headline “NYC launches $53M program to hand out pre-paid credit cards to migrant families.” But the article’s full text actually contained a number of useful details, such as the program is meant to replace existing food service for migrants, there are restrictions on where and how the cards can be spent, and the city hopes to save money overall.
Fox News hyped the story and is actually being less truthful than the New York Post
- Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, “We understand now New York is going to be spending $53 million to come up with prepaid credit cards for the illegal migrants,” and further asked, “Why do they need prepaid credit cards?” Bartiromo did not explain that the spending to “come up with” the cards would replace existing programs, with the intention of cutting overall spending. [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 2/4/24]
- Fox News anchor Dana Perino said the city was “adding insult to injury” by “planning to dole out $53 million in prepaid credit cards” to migrants. Perino tied the migrant aid politically to a crime story in New York City, in which four purported migrants were arrested after being caught on video assaulting a police officer, and have since left the city. Perino also dismissed the mayor’s explanation of the program, saying: “Well, he tries to say that it would actually save the taxpayers money if you do this. I don't know.” [Fox News, The Five, 2/5/24]
- Fox host Jesse Watters falsely claimed, “It's not like an EBT card where you can’t buy booze and cigs. You can buy booze and cigs with these AmEx cards.” Program participants must sign affidavits saying they will spend the debit cards only on the approved items of food and baby supplies or risk being kicked out of the program. (Also, Adams specifically said, “We need to dispel the rumor that we gave American Express cards to everyone. That is just not true.”) [Fox News, The Five, 2/5/24; The Associated Press, 2/6/24]
- While interviewing people on the street, Fox News producer Johnny Belisario told one respondent that Adams’ “solution is to give the migrants prepaid credit cards with your money.” Again, the term “prepaid credit card” is a misnomer for the limited-use debit cards, and the spending was already occurring. [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 2/5/24]
- Fox News host Sean Hannity attempted to use aid for veterans as a wedge issue: “I don't think they’re giving them to vets that are homeless in New York City, not that I’ve heard.” In fact, New York City has a variety of programs to assist veterans in need — including food assistance — in addition to federal and state programs for veterans. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/6/24; NYC.gov, 2/7/24]
- Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed that migrants were being given “a gigantic financial increase, simply to make it easy on the city.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked, “Who is going to be checking these cards to make sure that they are not getting alcohol or cigarettes, or that they are not paying their cartels?” (Again, the overall spending would go down if the program succeeds, and the cards can be used only at approved locations.) [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/7/24]