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Right-wing media use Hamas’ attacks on Israel to fearmonger about immigrants in the United States

Right-wing media figures have also claimed that due to the Democrats’ supposed “open border strategy,” Hamas “sleeper cells” are already present in the country and plan to attack major American cities

Right-wing media are using last weekend’s attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent fighting as an opportunity to fearmonger about immigration in the United States. Several right-wing media figures have baselessly warned of Hamas or other “sleeper cells” lying in wait to attack major American cities. 

Similar claims arose after the September 11 terror attacks – fear of “sleeper cells” planning a second wave attack spread, leading to questionable arrests and at least one failed prosecution. 

The “sleeper cell” idea has long been used as a racist cudgel against Muslim immigrants in the United States, and despite the lack of evidence, right-wing media are reviving this narrative in response to this weekend's violence abroad.

    • After wondering out loud about how many Hamas “sleeper cells” could be present in the U.S., Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said that “Hamas could send whoever they want, it's possible Hamas has hundreds or thousands of militants on the interior of the United States ready to bomb hospitals, blow up schools, or just rain terror. We do not have a border, therefore we do not have control of our country.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/9/23]
    • During the same show, Kirk speculated that among the alleged “10 million people … on pace to cross our border” there could be “Hamas terrorists right now in Dallas, Chicago, New York,” who could “get their hands on a weapon or a dirty bomb.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/9/23]
    • The next day, Kirk warned, “You better have a firearm when you leave home,” to defend against “sleeper cells” that “we know” have entered the country though the southern border. [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/10/23]
    • Anti-Muslim activist and MAGA troll Laura Loomer boosted former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social post warning of Hamas operatives crossing the southern border, adding, “HAMAS has terror cells all over USA.” [Twitter/X, 10/9/23]
    • Conservative pundit Carmine Sabia claimed “the people in power know” that “Hamas has terror cells in the United States,” that arrived through the southern border. “They also know their attacks will be attacks targeting our major cities,” he said, adding, “America is next.” He also wrote that “Joe Biden and his handlers are responsible for what is set to happen.” [Twitter/X, 10/8/23]
    • Right-wing outlet Leading Report tweeted “BREAKING: Hamas allegedly has terror cells in the United States after entering the country via the southern border, creating a fear of terrorist attacks in big cities over the next 14 months.” [Twitter/X, 10/8/23]
    • Neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec posted, “Wait til Hamas activates the sleeper cells that already came across our border” [Twitter/X, 10/7/23]
    • During a segment on Iran’s relationship with Hamas, Newsmax host Eric Bolling claimed that the Iranian Parliament chanted “death to Israel,” and “death to USA,” and pressed that “terrorists are likely pouring into America across our southern border.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 10/9/23]
    • In a rant about the southern border and “illegal alien invaders,” former Trump strategist Steve Bannon said, “You see what’s going on, with what Hamas is doing in Israel. Just stand by for that to happen in the United States of America.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 10/9/23]
    • Former Trump administration official Michael Caputo tweeted his belief that “when the US steps in to assist our longtime ally Israel, tens of thousands of fighting-age Palestinians who crossed the US border with BidenCo assistance will execute a long-planned and coordinated attack inside America.” He then called for people to “be prepared.” [Twitter/X, 10/7/23]
    • Right-wing outlet Gateway Pundit wrote that “the open border strategy” means that “Israel was just the prelim. ‘The Main Event’ is coming to America and a city near you. Stay frosty. Get armed. Get ready. The battle for America starts soon.” [The Gateway Pundit, 10/10/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Benny Johnson said on YouTube, that the United States had an “enemy within” comprised of “thousands of members of the terrorist watchlist that have crossed into our nation” and that “nobody has any idea where those sleeper cells may be or where they might have gone." [YouTube, The Benny Show, 10/10/23]
    • On Fox News, America Reports co-host John Roberts said that “thousands of special interest aliens from the Middle East have tried to enter the United States. This comes as war rages on between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorist group.” Anti-immigration propagandist Bill Melugin added that border patrol agents told him after the attacks in Israel that they “have extreme concerns about what has been coming across our southern border,” and told him, “I hope we are not next here in the U.S.” [Fox News, America Reports, 10/10/23]
    • End Wokeness tweeted, “For all we know, there could be hundreds of sleeper cells already here and waiting to be activated.” [Twitter/X, 10/8/23]