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Immigration Reform

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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]
  • Claim that 80 percent of migrants in caravan are "military-aged" men can be traced back to a Fox News contributor

    Fox News contributor Sara Carter’s claim that the majority of migrants are men has spread among right-wing media, who are now calling the men “military-aged”

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Misinformation and false claims surrounding the migrant caravan headed toward the United States have been making rounds on right-wing media outlets. Now, Fox News has introduced the idea that "80 percent" of the migrants -- many of whom appear to be refugees -- traveling within the caravan are men, an unverified claim that has made its way to other right-wing media outlets, with some now calling them "military-aged."

    The migrant caravan first began to gain attention in mid-October, when its size had increased from roughly 160 to over 7,000 people, according to CNBC. It has since been reported that this figure dropped to 4,000 people. The group is currently in southern Mexico and isn’t expected to reach the U.S. border for weeks, if at all. Nonetheless, Fox News seized on the caravan as this year’s pre-election story -- just as it did on the Ebola story before 2014 midterm elections -- to stoke fear among the Republican base. The network also brought it to the attention of President Donald Trump, who has since successfully manipulated other media outlets into excessively covering the caravan. Fox News has now introduced the claim that a majority of the migrants are young men.

    • Fox News contributor Sara Carter initially tweeted that it was "mostly men now crossing the #Guatamalen (sic) border.
    • Carter then claimed on Hannity that while on the ground in Guatemala, she saw “very few women and children, and an enormous amount of men.”
    • Carter repeated this claim on Hannity the following evening, saying, “The majority of people that were in the caravan … were men. There were a few hundred women.”
    • Jesse Watters claimed on Fox News’ The Five that “80 percent of those people in the migrant caravan are males under the age of 35.”
    • Watters repeated the statistic again the following day on Fox News’ The Story with Martha McCallum, claiming that while Democrats were saying it comprised all women and children, the caravan is “actually 80 percent men.”
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said Carter told him “almost everybody she saw were males.” He also said Carter told him that “she didn’t see any babies. She saw one baby carriage. She walked up real quick and it was somebody’s luggage in a baby carriage.”
    • Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell claimed on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight that, while on the ground in Guatemala, he observed that “it’s an overwhelmingly male caravan. … The women and children are super minority.”
    • Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka claimed on Fox & Friends that “80 percent of the caravan are military-aged males,” citing Carter and Farrell.
    • By Monday, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade had raised the percentage, asserting that “85 percent evidently are men” when asking a guest about the threat that the migrants pose.

    Other right-wing media outlets have adopted this talking point, citing Fox as the source. Alex Jones’ Infowars quoted Fox News as saying, “‘About 80 percent’ of migrant caravan ‘are men under the age of 35.’” The Daily Wire wrote, “Fox News also noted this week that approximately ‘80 percent’ of the people traveling in the caravan ‘are men under the age of 35.’” Gateway Pundit wrote that the caravan "Includes Military-Aged Male Migrants From Bangladesh, Haiti and Congo" in a post that embedded Carter's original tweet. The unverified statistic made its way to various other right-wing media outlets as well.

    Other media outlets have not confirmed this claim, and other reports contradict Fox’s accounts of the caravan’s members. Vox has reported that half of the migrants within the caravan are women and girls. Univision noted during a field visit that there were a large number of families, single mothers, and children, as well as older adults and people with disabilities in the caravan. And UNICEF reported in a press release that "an estimated 2,300 children traveling with [the] migrant caravan in Mexico need protection and essential services."