BuzzFeed: GOP Strategists Admit Conservative Media Hinder Immigration Reform

Republican strategists admitted to BuzzFeed that a “loud minority” of voices that includes conservative media have helped hinder congressional action on immigration reform. Strategists and lawmakers maintain that this “small cadre of Republicans in the House, talk radio hosts and activists,” use the “perceived threat of xenophobia” to drive opposition to reform and make House Republicans leery of the issue.

Indeed, right-wing media figures have repeatedly used racially tinged language to stoke fears of immigrants and force lawmakers to obstruct immigration reform. In fact, the front page of the Drudge Report this morning provides the perfect example:

Drudge linked to a column by conservative pundit Ann Coulter, a frequent guest on Fox News, who wrote that the Republicans' planned push for immigration reform will “wreck the country” and “solves” only “the rich's 'servant problem.' ”

Another example is Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, who on her radio show today played on nativist fears of immigrants to raise opposition to immigration reform.

In a January 29 article, BuzzFeed reported:

[A]lthough there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement for many members, there's one issue at play not often discussed: race.

“Part of it, I think -- and I hate to say this, because these are my people -- but I hate to say it, but it's racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, 'These people have different cultural customs than we do.' And that's code for race.”

There are a range of policy reasons for opposing plans to liberalize immigration or to regularize undocumented immigrants in the country, ones revolving around law-and-order concerns and the labor market. But that perceived thread of xenophobia, occasionally expressed bluntly on the fringes of the Republican Party and on the talk radio airwaves, has driven many Hispanic voters away from a Republican leadership that courts them avidly. And some Republicans who back an immigration overhaul, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the Republican Party's most vocal champions of a pathway to citizenship, acknowledge that race remains a reality in the immigration debate.

BuzzFeed went on to report: “Talk radio, particularly regional and small-market talkers, have also kept up the pressure, Republicans said, explaining that the airwaves back home are constantly filled with talk of 'amnesty' that makes backing new laws difficult.” The article quoted Republican strategist Brian Walsh saying that Republicans are " 'listening to a loud minority ... [but] those who oppose this haven't been challenged to say, 'What's their plan?'"

Ingraham and Mark Levin, another frequent Fox News guest, have especially used their radio shows to demonize undocumented immigrants in their attempts to hijack immigration reform. Ingraham in particular has been particularly vitriolic: She has smeared the American children of undocumented immigrants as “anchor fetuses,” claimed that immigration from Mexico would “turn America into a hellhole,” and complained that American culture is “disappearing.”

Levin has blamed undocumented immigrants for the state of the American education system and has used immigration reform to stoke anti-immigrant hysteria in African-Americans.

The conservative media also helped obstruct immigration reform during the Bush administration. President Bush reached out to the conservative media on the issue and invited talkers like Ingraham and Sean Hannity to the White House. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) credited talk radio as “a big factor” in defeating reform, while then-Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) complained that “senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk-radio people who don't even know what's in the bill.”