A stylized image of Fox News host Jesse Watters with his his Islamophobic quote "We've had it with them"

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Right-wing media ramp up Islamophobia, spread paranoia about all Muslims

Fox host Jesse Watters: “I want to say something about Arab Americans and about the Muslim world. … We’ve had it with them.”

Following the October 7, 2023, Hamas terror attacks on Israel that led to an ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, right-wing Islamophobia is reaching dangerous heights in the U.S., even prompting a response from President Joe Biden’s White House. Multiple right-wing media figures have mischaracterized Muslims as inherently violent, fearmongered about and demanded an end to Muslim travel and immigration to the U.S., and denied the existence and spread of Islamophobia, even as they have participated in it.

  • Right-wing media Islamophobia reached a tipping point and was called out by the White House

    • Fox News host Jesse Watters ranted on The Five: “I want to say something about Arab Americans and about the Muslim world. … We’ve had it with them.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/1/23]
    • The Biden White House responded to Watters’ Islamophobic rant, calling it a “sickening attack on the rights and dignity” of Americans and that Fox “owes an apology to every single viewer.” [CNN, 11/2/23]
    • The day after Watters’ Islamophobic rant, he took an unannounced absence from The Five. [Twitter/X, 11/2/23]
    • Right-wing media previously fearmongered over a supposed “day of jihad” and called for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. [Media Matters, 10/16/23, 10/30/23]
  • Right-wing media characterized Muslims as inherently hateful and violent

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk maintained that the “vast majority of Muslims” live “in the 1300s” and hold a “medieval worldview.” Kirk framed the Israel-Hamas conflict as “civilization, aka Western values, versus barbarism.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/11/23]
    • Kirk claimed Muslims are going to kidnap people “across the world.” According to Kirk, “People are going to start getting kidnapped all across the world if we mishandle this. You’re going to see a string of kidnappings,” Kirk said. “Americans don’t travel internationally nearly as much as Europeans, but we travel internationally a lot, and there's a lot of Muslims out there.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/11/23]
    • Kirk falsely claimed that Islamic law justifies killing children. “It's perfectly acceptable in Islamic law to go kill kids — perfectly fine,” Kirk said. [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/12/23]
    • On Kirk’s Salem Radio show, Christian nationalist pastor Jack Hibbs called Islam a “death cult.” Hibbs described Islam as “the hijacking of the Middle East ... it is violent, it is deadly, it's a death cult.” [Media Matters, 5/25/23; Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/25/23]
    • On YouTube, Steven Crowder declared “all of Islam is a doomsday cult” and warned “Christians are next.” Crowder claimed, “We're only going to reach the end when every single Muslim is converting every person on Earth” as part of a “global caliphate.” [YouTube, Louder with Crowder, 10/30/23]
    • Fox News host Mark Levin suggested that Islamophobia only exists in the Middle East and China, and that Muslims are always “slaughtering each other.” Levin then accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of being “Islamophobic” and “created by Hamas.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 10/31/23]
    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed on his Infowars show that suicide bombers are “rockstars in the Muslim world.” Jones argued, “You give the Palestinian families, grandmas who you give it to, ‘Here’s a half million bucks, sweetheart,’ her first born son, guaranteed, and his little brother, will go blow themselves up at an Israeli checkpoint tomorrow.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 10/8/23]
  • Right-wing media fearmongered that Muslim immigrants will bring terrorism and antisemitism to the United States

    • According to Kirk, “We have imported the dynamite right into our country.” Kirk claimed that “we have invited some of the most disgusting people on the planet into the West,” including “Third World Muslims,” and that “we shouldn’t be surprised” to see a “global day of jihad.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/12/23]
    • Kirk claimed that “millions of young, fighting-age Muslim men in America” have the potential to be “activated” as terrorists. Kirk said, “You have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of young, fighting-age Muslim men in America. All it takes is for a couple of them to be activated in this country.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/12/23]
    • Kirk fearmongered about the possibility of Islamic terrorists crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and “shooting up a public place in the name of Allah.” Kirk said, “What's to prevent one of these Muslims that came across the border … from getting their hands on a firearm and going and shooting up a public place in the name of Allah?” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 10/10/23]
    • Jones warned viewers of Steve Bannon’s War Room that “the gates are wide open” and “Islamic hordes” are pouring into the U.S., claiming that “it's only a matter of when, not if” there will be “terror attacks in this country.” Speaking about protests in defense of Palestinians, Jones argued, “These people on average are not going to assimilate. They are only going to try to conquer us,” and therefore “we need to deport all these people now.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 10/18/23]
    • Levin claimed that hate crimes against Jews are up because America is allowing immigrants from “Arab and Muslim countries … to come into this country unvetted.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 10/31/23]
    • Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro ranted against importing “hundreds of thousands” of Muslims “into Western cultural centers while you scream for our deaths,” calling it “suicidal insanity.” Shapiro continued, “Pretending that you can import one set of values into a completely different set of values … and then maintaining that lie at the cost of free speech of your own citizens is totally crazy.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 11/2/23]
    • Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager claimed the left brought in “people from Muslim countries” in an effort to “import Jew hatred” and “exterminate Israel-believers” in America. Prager lamented, “If you said this was a danger, you were called Islamophobic.” [Salem Media Group, The Dennis Prager Show, 10/18/23]
    • During an episode of LFA TV’s Live from America, Jeremy Herrell claimed that there was a “coordinated effort of Islam trying to kill Jews and Christians all over the world.” He went on to fearmonger about terrorist violence coming to the U.S., adding, “What do you think that southern border was open for? They’ve got to bring the holy war mentality to the United States in order to take the United States down.” [LFA TV, Live from America, 10/10/23
    • Far-right figure TheSaltyCracker speculated that a “massive, massive amount of terrorisms is most likely coming to your Democrat-run city shitholes” as “all of these people that we have no idea who the fuck they are” come over the border. [Rumble, TheSaltyCracker, 10/9/23]
  • Right-wing media support instituting a travel ban for all Muslims

    • On Hannity, former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller called to “reintroduce President Trump’s travel ban on jihadist regions” and deport foreign students who he alleged were “expressing support for terrorism” on college campuses. Miller argued, “We should not have sympathizers of Hamas, sympathizers of terrorism, sympathizers of the destruction and death of innocent people attending our universities and becoming part of America.” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/12/23]
    • Anti-Muslim extremist Laura Loomer: “RESTORE THE ISLAMIC TERROR TRAVEL BAN!” Loomer called for the United States to “DEPORT ALL JIHADIS” in order to “MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • On Newsmax, guest and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called to “reinstate President Trump’s travel ban immediately” and revoke visas for foreign students who allegedly “support Hamas.” Host Chris Salcedo agreed, decrying immigration from “people who are so antithetical to Western civilization” and seek to “undermine” America. [Newsmax, The Chris Salcedo Show, 10/23/23]
    • On X (formerly Twitter), War Room CFO Grace Chong reposted Steve Bannon’s call to “STOP THE INVASION OF AMERICA” and “REINSTATE TRAVEL BAN” in response to Hamas’ terror attack on Israel. [Twitter/X, 10/9/23]
    • Fox host Brian Kilmeade expressed support for Trump’s reinstatement of his Muslim ban in a potential second term. While Kilmeade criticized Trump’s application of the 2017 ban, he added that “hopefully he knows how to implement things better now — if he was to become president again.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 10/17/23]
  • Right-wing media denied and downplayed the existence of Islamophobia

    • On his Fox News Radio show, Kilmeade claimed that “so-called” Islamophobia “really doesn’t exist.” Kilmeade and guest Dan Senor slammed the Biden administration for creating a national strategy to combat Islamophobia, failing to mention the national strategy to combat antisemitism released by the White House in May. [Fox News Radio, The Brian Kilmeade Show, 10/24/23; NPR, 5/25/23]
    • Outkick co-host Buck Sexton called Islamophobia “a nonsensical term used by cynical people to bully the public.” Co-host and Outkick founder Clay Travis agreed, claiming,“No one is calling for anything of any violent act to be perpetrated against anyone of the Muslim faith at all.” [OutKick, The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, 11/2/23]
    • Levin denied a recent surge in Islamophobia and complained about the attention the White House has given to the bigotry. Levin ranted: “I’m sick and tired of this White House, every time they talk about antisemitism, talk about, what is it? Islamic bigotry? Islamophobia. There’s not a 4 or 500% increase in threats against Muslims in this country. What are they talking about? Are there Jews in the street and Christians in the street and other people in the street, really protesting about ‘Get rid of the Muslims, exterminate the Muslims, obliterate the Muslims?’ Tell me, who is that? Does anybody do it? Of course not.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 10/30/23]