Immigration Myths | Media Matters for America

Immigration Myths

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  • How Fox has been using racist, nativist, and anti-immigrant rhetoric to talk about border issues

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In recent months, Fox’s rhetoric on immigration and President Donald Trump’s demand for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has regularly included racism, nativism, and other anti-immigrant commentary. It’s no secret that Trump frequently watches Fox News for advice and information, often consulting Fox personalities like Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs when making key policy decisions, and that he regularly tweets about Fox segments throughout the day, particularly the morning show Fox & Friends. As a result, Trump frequently takes the advice of Fox personalities over his own advisers -- according to The New Yorker, “White House aides confirm that Trump has repeatedly walked away from compromises at the last moment because Fox hosts and guests opposed the deals.”

    Trump’s tendency to defer to Fox News makes the racist, nativist, and anti-immigration rhetoric that has become a feature of the network particularly problematic. Fox has given airtime in 2019 to toxic narratives that include demonization of immigrants, descriptions of of people seeking asylum as an “invasion,” support for the myth that Democrats want to increase undocumented immigration as a way to secure votes illegally, and concerns that immigrants are replacing America’s white population -- a common and dangerous white supremacist trope.

    And it appears Fox’s rhetoric in general is influencing the president’s decisions on policies related to the border and immigration. Trump’s recent proposals to declare a national emergency to build a border wall, close the southern border, and cut aid to three Central American countries have all been praised at Fox News even though prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill oppose them.

    Here’s what Fox figures and guests have been saying about the border and immigration lately:

    • Prime-time Fox host Tucker Carlson told Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that “one party has a vested interest in changing the population.” in discussing immigration. Carlson also asked Nielsen if she would “be willing to draft an executive order eliminating birthright citizenship.” White nationalists have celebrated Carlson for bringing their talking points into the mainstream media. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/2/19; Media Matters, 4/1/19, 3/8/19]
    • In a blatant display of fearmongering, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said immigration could “consign tens of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans to their deaths.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/29/19]
    • Carlson argued on his show that “more immigration” isn’t “always better for our economy” because “legal or not, immigrants send their earnings abroad” to their families “and they pay nothing when they do it because remittances are untaxed.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/20/19]
    • On her podcast, prime-time Fox host Laura Ingraham said undocumented immigration amounts to an “invasion of the country.” She also said, “They want to tell you you can’t say that anymore. They are invading this country.” [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 3/28/19]
    • On her Fox show, Ingraham argued that immigrant schoolchildren have led to a “diminished product” in schools. She complained that “we aren't allowed to talk about the need for immigrants to assimilate into the American culture.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 2/12/19]
    • On her podcast, Ingraham said immigration is pushing “Western civilization” toward “tipping over a cliff,” which is in line with common white nationalist tropes. [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 3/28/19; Pharos, 1/25/19]
    • Carlson complained that government-sponsored child care will “no doubt” be used “to justify more immigration.” He added, “The Democratic Party started by outsourcing manufacturing -- you remember that. Then they outsourced farm labor and yard work. And now they decided to outsource parenting." [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/20/19]
    • On her podcast, Ingraham repeated the white nationalist trope that undocumented immigrants are coming to “replace kind of the old America with a new America.” She also said, “The Democrats know that that will tip the balance for them in every state where it’s even close and that will just be an electoral lock forever.” [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 3/7/19]
    • Later in the same podcast episode, Ingraham emphasized that “the Democrats want to replace many of you with new voters who eventually they will give amnesty to -- to new voters who have -- you know, they have no real affinity for the American founding.” [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 3/7/19]
    • A guest on Carlson’s show warned that migrant caravans full of people with diseases like scabies are headed to the border. Guest Buck Sexton said immigrants with “a whole litany of different communicable, very serious diseases” are seeking out Border Patrol agents so they can surrender themselves and get free treatment, likenling the situation at the border to a “de facto Red Cross.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/28/19]
    • On her podcast, Ingraham attacked undocumented immigrants for not showing “any sense of gratitude.” She also complained, “The word ‘assimilation’ is itself a dirty word now.” [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 1/29/19]
    • On her podcast, Ingraham agreed with guest Pat Buchanan that 1950s' “Operation Wetback” should be reenacted to deport immigrants. [PodcastOne, The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, 2/6/19]
    • On Fox & Friends, guest Betsy McCaughey said Trump should end “this asylum scam” because many migrants crossing the border are “fake asylum seekers.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/18/19]
    • Fox’s Tomi Lahren claimed that the phrase “asylum seekers” is “the roses and sunshine term for illegal immigrants.” [Fox Nation, First Thoughts, 3/11/19]
    • On Fox & Friends, Fox regular Mark Steyn claimed without evidence that there are areas of the southern border that don’t observe U.S. laws because of immigration. He also said that “a lot of young people” find “the abolition of citizenship” an appealing idea. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/21/19]
    • On Fox & Friends, contributor Mollie Hemingway justified closing the southern border because “sometimes you want to have a little bit of hurt so that people are incentivized to do something.” The comment came after she was told that “almost half of our veggies and about 40 percent of our fruit does come from Mexico.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/3/19]
    • On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., frequent Fox guest Brad Blakeman argued that closing the border is worth the economic cost because “it's about time Americans in this generation were subjected to sacrifice." When pressed on whether or not this would hurt Trump politically, Blakeman responded, “Yes, it is, because leaders have to take a chance.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 4/2/19]
    • A panel of guests on Fox & Friends urged Trump to close the southern border. Brandon Judd argued that “these are extraordinary times and you have to take extraordinary measures.” Tom Homan said that “it’s going to hurt. But, you know, these types of actions are necessary to secure the border.” Mark Kelly conceded that “closing the border might be a drastic method, but I think we may be at a point where we need to be drastic.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/1/19]
    • Fox & Friends Sunday went viral after airing a segment with a chyron that read “Trump cuts U.S. aid to 3 Mexican countries.” The segment was referring to Trump’s decision to cut aid from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The show ultimately issued an apology. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 3/31/19]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said that Trump shutting down the southern border “even if it hurts us economically” is “called leadership.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/3/19]
    • On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt asserted that undocumented immigrants are “using these kids” to enter the United States. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/19]
    • Fox & Friends’ Kilmeade suggested Senate Republicans use “humanitarian perspective” as “cover” to vote for an emergency declaration to fund the border wall. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/12/19]
    • On Fox & Friends, former border patrol chief Mark Morgan defended border security agents against accusations that they are caging migrants, saying that there is just “chain link fence” for “safety and security.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/19]
    • On Fox’s “hard news” program America’s Newsroom, guest Brad Blakeman claimed asylum seekers “exploit the weakness” in U.S. asylum laws. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 3/6/19]
  • Fox "straight news" anchors don't correct misinformation about Trump cuts to food stamp benefits

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, one of the programs the network bills as hard news, provided a platform for Fox Business host Charles Payne to spew unchecked misinformation regarding immigration and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    In a segment discussing President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2019, which includes cuts to SNAP, Payne expanded on a quote from Trump that was displayed on screen, inaccurately claiming that “a large majority of” undocumented people in the United States collect welfare benefits. Payne went on to advocate for a SNAP reform proposal that the Trump administration has suggested, espousing the supposed benefits of what the administration is referring to as a “Harvest Box.”

    As Payne pushed clear misinformation regarding SNAP benefits, two of Fox’s supposed news anchors, Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith, sat silently. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for SNAP benefits. Some mixed-status households do receive benefits for members who are eligible, such as U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, but in those cases “the child’s eligibility does not change their parents’ or any other family members’ eligibility for that benefit.” Payne even misrepresented the report (which was produced by an anti-immigrant organization); Breitbart cited in its interview with Trump; that report claimed that “63 percent of non-citizen households end up on welfare,” while Payne suggested the findings applied specifically to individual undocumented immigrants. Moreover, Trump administration officials have openly admitted to The New York Times that the “Harvest Box” proposal has “virtually no chance of being implemented” and is simply “a political gambit by fiscal hawks in the administration aimed at outraging liberals and stirring up members of the president’s own party working on the latest version of the farm bill.” The plan appears in part to be a way to cut SNAP benefits.

    From the March 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Let’s talk about budget and welfare reform. Here is the comment from Breitbart from the president, do we have that here? “I don’t like the idea of people coming in and going on welfare for 50 years” -- I think he was talking about immigrants right? Illegals? “And that’s not what they to be able to do -- that’s not what they want to be able to do -- and it’s no good.”

    CHARLES PAYNE (FOX BUSINESS HOST): Well, he was referring, there are some studies out there that show a large majority of illegal immigrants go on public assistance and they stay on there at least for a generation, and it’s very costly to, you know -- this is not necessarily new. You may not hear any president speak like this about it, but, you know, it’s a concern that a lot of American taxpayers have. So, yeah, he put it out there. You know, of course, Nancy Pelosi’s calling this whole thing cruel in the first place, this budget. But, he’s got some other ideas, like this harvest box that the Democrats are against.

    HEMMER: What is that?

    PAYNE: It’s a food box that 16 million people would get. It’s got -- it would cover about 81 percent of people on food stamps. And, here’s the thing, when food stamps first started in 1939, that’s exactly what it was, the same sort of program. You got a dollar’s worth of stamps that you could buy anything with for household goods, and another 50 cents that you bought surplus food from the federal government. And it was, you know, things that -- you know, beans, rice, cornmeal, eggs -- fresh eggs, so it had a two-prong impact, right? You help the American farmer; you also help the consumer, right? It wasn’t spent on things like potato chips, which, you know, no one wants to be honest, but a lot of the money now food stamp recipients receive are spent on non-healthy items. And it’s ironic because Democrats talk about food deserts all the time, but, you know, if you really care about nutrition, it’s an idea to think about.