Diversity & Discrimination | Media Matters for America

Diversity & Discrimination

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  • Right-wing media are rallying to defend the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is separating immigrant children from their parents or legal guardians after they cross the border, with at least 2,000 children taken from their parents since April 19. The administration’s merciless and inhumane policy has spurred numerous heartbreaking stories, including reports of a breastfeeding baby who was ripped from her mother, a Honduran father separated from his family who took his own life, and children who are held in cages alongside strangers. Yet right-wing media figures have been quick to defend the policy and dismiss its inherent cruelty:

    • Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak justified separating families at the border, saying the Border Patrol facilities are "better than what they had." Pollak also claimed that ICE taking children from their parents and putting them in detention facilities is “just about caring for the kids.”

    • Right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza, who recently received a pardon from President Donald Trump, questioned whether immigrant parents are “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox's Pete Hegseth defended the separations because the children get food and "soccer and video games." Hegseth also called images of detained children “quite compassionate,” and said the policy was “defensible.”

    • Fox News’ Trish Regan argued that Trump is showing asylum-seeking families "tough love" by taking children away from their parents.

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce called for White House press briefings to end after reporters confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the separation of families.

    • Fox's Jesse Watters argued that the White House should "start ripping press passes away" from reporters who ask about families getting separated at the border. Watters also said that “some would say” that separation is “a more humane policy” than detaining the families together.

    • In a series of tweets, Twitter troll Bill Mitchell aggressively defended the policy, accusing the media of focusing on “#FakeNews ‘concentration camps,’” complaining about the money spent to keep the children captive, suggested that many of the children are “not with their families at all - they are with smugglers” (only a very small percentage of cases involve smuggling and often a bona fide relationship between the child and adult is clear), and claiming, “President Trump is PROTECTING these children.”

    • Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade downplayed “the so-called separation of kids and parents” at the border, arguing that the Democrats are using it to distract from the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said that families are “choosing to be separated” by showing up at the border. She also argued that “you can't even really blame an administration” for the separation policy.

    • Her fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that “the part that is troubling” is not children being ripped from their parents, but the parents choosing to come to the United States in the first place. Doocy also argued that the cages some children are being housed in shouldn’t be called “cages” because rather they are “walls [built] out of chain link fences," and he defended family separation by suggesting the U.S. government spends a lot of money to “make sure that those kids wind up with all that stuff” that detention facilities offer.

    • Fox & Friends repeated or referenced Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s lies about family separation throughout the June 18 broadcast. Nielsen initially claimed that separation wasn’t happening -- it is.

    • Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich said that Trump was “keeping [children] safe in dorms,” and he accused former President Barack Obama of giving children “to human traffickers.”

    • Fox host and Trump lackey Sean Hannity claimed that the policy of separation “took place in previous administrations” (neither the Obama nor the Bush administration separated families as a matter of policy). Hannity also accused the media of having an “obsession” with the “so-called policy of separating illegal immigrant families.”    

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the “outrage” over the separation policy “hilarious,” complained about watching “our country try to contort itself into other peoples' cultures,” and excused the separations because the children have “entertainment, sports, tutoring, medical, dental, four meals a day, and clean, decent housing” even though their “parents irresponsibly tried to bring them across the border illegally.” On her Fox show, Ingraham called the administration’s child detention centers “essentially summer camps” and compared them to “boarding schools.”

    • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn choose not to editorialize on the cruelty of family separation itself, instead attacking the "discourse" around separation policy and claiming it is what's wrong with Democrats and media.

    • Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter warned the president not to fall for “these child actors weeping and crying on” cable news.

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the outrage over family separation “an entirely manufactured crisis” and claimed “it happened during the Obama administration” too (it didn’t).  

    • One America News Network correspondent and internet troll Jack Posobiec defended the policy by fearmongering that children crossing the border could be with traffickers as opposed to family members. There is clear evidence of the relationship between many of the children in detention and the adult that accompanied them.

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, a frequent cable news guest, contended that “Obama and Trump have same child protection policy” (they do not).

    • Fox’s David Bossie attempted to shift the blame onto the parents, arguing that “if they don't become criminals, they're not separated.” He also claimed that Trump is just “following the law,” ignoring the reality that separation is a Trump administration policy, not the law.

    • Fox host Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that people speaking up against America detaining children in cages just want to "change your country forever."

    • Chris Bedford, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation, criticized the "hyperbole" over family separation and child detention.

    • Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge attempted to paint Latin American children as violent by publishing a photo of children in Azaz, Syria.

    • Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration (they were not).

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter aggressively defended the policy, suggesting that the U.S. ought to “separate the children and then send them all away” and “in prison (sic) the parents until they serve their sentence then throw them out.”

    • Infowars frontman and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that separation has been the “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.” Infowars also claimed that Trump had exposed “the hoax that the US is mistreating migrant children.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro fallaciously argued that Trump is simply “enforcing the law on the books.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posted a series of tweets fearmongering about “illegal immigration” and claimed that “all of this happened for 8 years under Obama” (nope).

    • NRATV host Dan Bongino claimed that reporting on the “immigration/children story” is “propaganda, nothing more” and argued that anyone who believed it is “delirious, and should seek professional help.”

    • Radio talk show host Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook claiming that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009 and that Democrats just started talking about the issue because “they only care about making Trump look ‘bad.’” The post has been shared over 100,000 times.

    • Conservative commentator Dick Morris claimed that families seeking asylum at the borders were part of a “scam” in which adult immigrants were “abusers” who are using their children as a “battering ram to force their way into the country.” He also said the solution to this problem is to deny asylum to all immigrants who come to the border with a child.

    • Fox New contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich posted a series of tweets comparing the separation of asylum-seeking families to the separation of children and arrested parents and supporting Sarah Sanders’ claims in which she portrayed “illegal aliens” as criminals who are responsible for separating U.S. families permanently by “committing murder or killing through drunk driving.”

    • Conservative Review TV’s Jon Miller claimed that media are trying to push controversy around separation policies in order to “distract from the disastrous IG report and anything else this president has done that will cause people to vote for him.”

    • Fox News’ Tomi Lahren tweeted that “we owe ILLEGAL immigrants NOTHING,” and suggested that family separation is just one of the “consequences” parents have to accept when they “drag [their] kids over here ILLEGALLY.”

  • Local Virginia media failed to report that the newly elected GOP Senate nominee is a neo-Confederate with connections to white supremacists  

    Evening news programs virtually ignored Corey Stewart’s extremism. Virginia newspapers did only slightly better.

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters 

    On June 12, neo-Confederate Corey Stewart was elected to be the Republican nominee to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Stewart is an ardent defender of Confederate symbols and a staunch opponent of immigrants’ rights, and he has been affiliated with white supremacists. Unfortunately for Virginians, local TV news in the state largely failed to mention Stewart’s extremism while reporting on his victory. While some Virginia newspapers did a better job in giving the context of Stewart’s background to audiences, others largely failed to mention his bigotry.

    Stewart, who is currently a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was the Virginia state co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been described as a “mini-Trump,” and heavily courted the “alt-right” and figures who have self-identified with the movement. Shortly after he was fired from his position with the campaign in October 2016 for taking part in a protest against the Republican National Committee, Stewart gave an interview to Mike Cernovich, a far-right troll who has a history of promoting conspiracy theories. During the interview, Cernovich said that “he calls establishment Republicans ‘cucks’ because ‘they like to see Trump get screwed over by the media, that's what they get off on.’” Stewart replied, “Yeah, I would agree.” The term “cuck,” short for “cuckold,” is widely used within “alt-right” and pro-Trump circles.

    In January 2017, Stewart spoke out in support of Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist congressional candidate who holds and espouses deeply racist views, calling him one of his “personal heros.” According to CNN, Stewart later paid almost $800 to the "pro-White" Nehlen as a “fundraising commission.” And in February 2017, Stewart attended an event put on by “Unity & Security for America,” a group run by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who would months later organize the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. According to The Washington Post, Stewart himself claimed that white nationalists were “unfairly singled out” for their role in the rally. Stewart has since disavowed both men, but as The New York Times reports, Nehlen at least already had a history of making anti-Muslim slurs when Stewart initially praised him.

    Stewart is also a stalwart defender of Confederate symbols and has helped spearhead the movement against immigration and immigrants’ rights in Virginia. During his 2017 campaign for Virginia governor, he displayed a Confederate flag while recording a Facebook live segment, declaring, “Folks, this is a symbol of heritage. It is not a symbol of racism. It is not a symbol of slavery.” Stewart later claimed that “ISIS has won” after a Confederate monument was taken down in New Orleans, LA. During his time as a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Stewart has supported aggressively anti-immigrant policies. He helped pass legislation to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving county services and often fearmongers about immigrants in Virginia, warning residents about the “scourge of illegal aliens who are preying on law-abiding United States citizens here in Fairfax County,” incorrectly stating that the city of Fairfax has “declared itself a ‘sanctuary city.’”

    Local TV news dropped the ball on acknowledging Stewart’s extremism

    Eight major TV news stations in two of Virginia’s largest media markets largely failed to inform viewers that the Republican nominee for Senate is an anti-immigrant, neo-Confederate extremist with ties to white supremacists. Media Matters reviewed local TV coverage of Stewart’s win during nighttime (11 p.m.; 10 p.m. for Fox affiliates) and evening (6 p.m. or 7 p.m.) news programing from 9 p.m. on June 12 (when Stewart was declared the winner) through June 14. Of the four stations carrying local news in the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News media market, not one mentioned Stewart’s extremist past. Coverage in the Roanoke-Lynchburg media market wasn’t much better; two stations mentioned Stewart’s position on immigration and his advocacy for Confederate monuments, but none highlighted his relationships with white nationalists.

    • In the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News media market, WVEC (ABC 13), WTKR (CBS 3), WAVY (NBC 10)and WVBT (Fox 43) all failed to mention Stewart’s advocacy for Confederate symbols, his extremism on immigration, and his previous association with white supremacists.  

    • In the Roanoke-Lynchburg, WDBJ (CBS 7) and WFXR (Fox 27) both mentioned Stewart’s defense of Confederate monuments and referenced his stance on immigration, though neither highlighted his extremism on the topic; instead they noted, respectively, his interest in “cracking down on illegal immigration” and his “focus” on “illegal immigration.” Neither station acknowledged his history of associating with white nationalists.

    • WSET (ABC 13, a station owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group) and WSLS (NBC 10) failed to mention any aspect of Stewart’s extremist past.

    Some Virginia newspapers did better than TV news, but others missed the mark

    The Richmond-Times Dispatch did an admirable job detailing Stewart’s bigotry, The Roanoke Times failed to mention certain aspects of Stewart’s extremism, and The Virginian Pilot almost entirely dropped the ball. Media Matters reviewed three major Virginia newspapers’ coverage of Stewart’s victory from June 12 until June 15.

    • The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran five stories mentioning Stewart’s win. Three of those articles mentioned Stewart’s defense of Confederate symbols, or else branded him “pro-Confederate.” Two noted his focus on “illegal” immigration, and four discussed his connections with white supremacists and anti-Semites.  

    • The Roanoke Times ran only one story, an article it re-ran from The Richmond Times-Dispatch, announcing Stewart’s victory, and while it mentioned his association with both Kessler and Nehlen, it failed to identify his support for Confederate symbols or his anti-immigration stances. The Times did, however, run an editorial that accused Stewart of playing “footsie with white nationalists,” and mentioned his backing of Confederate symbols. 

    • The Virginian Pilot ran two articles, one partially re-published from The Washington Post, that mentioned Stewart’s victory. The Post article actually did mention Stewart’s support for Confederate monuments, his immigration stance, and his extreme associations, but this section of the article was taken out when it ran in the Pilot. The other article neglected to definitively acknowledge any aspect of Stewart’s extremism, instead noting that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has accused him of “cozying up to purveyors of dangerous white supremacy or anti-Semitic views."

    Methodology

    Using iQ media, Media Matters analyzed Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News and Roanoke-Lynchburg, two of the largest local news markets in Virginia, for “Corey Stewart,” “Stewart,” or “Republican primary” from 9 p.m. on June 12 through June 14. Relevant segments were reviewed during the stations' nighttime news program (11 p.m.; 10 p.m. for WVBT and WFXR) and during the 6 p.m. (7 p.m. for WVBT, which doesn't air 6 p.m. news) block of their evening news coverage (WFXR does not air evening news coverage).  

    Using Nexis, Media Matters searched three widely circulated Virginia-based print newspapers, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian Pilot, and The Roanoke Times, from 9 p.m. June 12 to June 15 and reviewed relevant print articles that included the terms “Stewart” or “Republican primary.”

  • Fox & Friends makes false claims about immigration to link immigrants to violent gang MS-13

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, who is known for spreading misinformation on immigration matters, spouted a number of falsehoods this morning in an attempt to link Latino immigrants to the brutal gang MS-13.

    On June 13, Kilmeade interviewed the sheriff of Frederick County, MD, Chuck Jenkins, to discuss the gang’s influence in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Jenkins gained attention in 2013 for embracing a controversial program 287(g), also known as the “show me your papers” law, which has facilitated the deportation of “large numbers of Frederick Latinos caught without papers after being arrested only for driving without a license” and led to the illegal detention of one Latina woman.

    While MS-13, a violent gang, is a serious problem in some communities, Fox News has exaggerated their presence in the course of their anti-immigrant fearmongering. Together, Kilmeade and Jenkins blamed unaccompanied minors and lax immigration policies for the rise of the gang with a host of lies:

    Kilmeade incorrectly linked the influx of unaccompanied minors into the country to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, claiming, “When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities.” But long-standing U.S. immigration policy has granted special protections to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. DACA was implemented as a solution for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and who had already been residing in the country, not as a legal basis for them to be accepted when they cross the border. And there is little evidence that, as many conservatives have implied, DACA encouraged unaccompanied minors to make the journey to the U.S.

    Kilmeade suggested unaccompanied minors crossing the border are affiliated with MS-13. Only a very small fraction are suspected of gang affiliation. According to the acting chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, of the 45,400 unaccompanied minors who were apprehended per fiscal year from 2012-2017, only 159 had confirmed or suspected gang affiliations and 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13. It is more widely accepted that young immigrants living in the U.S. who have little access to community resources are forcibly recruited into gangs. 

    Kilmeade encouraged profiling unaccompanied minors with tattoos to identify MS-13 members. Authorities are already using physical indicators like tattoos to wrongly designate undocumented immigrants as gang members in order to detain or deport them. One federal judge recently found that ICE had improperly targeted a DACA beneficiary by claiming a tattoo proved he was involved in a gang.

    Jenkins claimed that there were “well over 5,000” MS-13 members in three Maryland counties located just northwest of Washington, D.C. A White House press briefing statement in February by the acting assistant attorney general put the number closer to 3,000 across the D.C. metro region, and last year U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement put the number even lower, telling The Washington Post that the gang has 900 to 1,100 members in the entire D.C. region and 10,000 across 40 states.

    From the June 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You’ve got Northern Virginia, Long Island, and Boston. When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities but not to rich schools. You have schools that are struggling, and they make these classes, which are already too big, even more unwieldy, and they don't even speak English, so they need even more support.

    SHERIFF CHUCK JENKINS (FREDERICK COUNTY, MD): That's right, Brian. And, listen, Prince George's County, Montgomery County, this part of Maryland, now into Frederick County, my jurisdiction, was a targeted area for relocation. For some reason -- and we know the MS-13 population in this part of Maryland that I'm talking about is well over 5,000.

    KILMEADE: When a kid comes across and says, “I’m a refugee,” but he’s got neck tattoos, that might be the first clue.

    JENKINS: That is a clue.

    KILMEADE: Yeah. Nearly a dozen parents told the Post they were worried about gang activity at their school. And it happens to be just 10 miles from the White House.

    JENKINS: How can it be anywhere in the United States, Brian? How could we have let this happen?

    KILMEADE: How could it happen again? What have we done to change things?

    JENKINS: Well, we haven't done enough yet. What we need to do is a push from this administration, from the Justice Department, to declare this organization a terrorist organization and clean them up, get them out of here, and get them out of this country.

    KILMEADE: So what kind of support are you asking? Do you need money? Do you need people?

    JENKINS: We need a declaration from the White House, from President Trump, from the Department of Justice to allow local law enforcement to be effective, get in there and clean these pockets of crime out.

    KILMEADE: Yeah. You don't have to dig out the next Nikolas Cruz. They’re sitting there right in front of you, declaring they’re MS-13, daring you to kick them out. And you, sheriff, on with us telling us, “Give me the power to do so.”