Fox News figures have been leading the praise of Donald Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric, and have even credited the 2016 presidential hopeful for injecting new life into the national debate over illegal immigration. It represents a significant departure from what Fox and other right-wing media were saying in the wake of the 2012 presidential election, when the deep rift between Republicans and Hispanic voters had become painfully clear to the GOP.
Trump is basking in -- and benefitting from -- the support of conservative media. He reportedly had a one-on-one meeting with Fox News President Roger Ailes before announcing his White House candidacy and is now leading the Fox Primary. During the month of June, Trump made 10 appearances on Fox News, racking up an hour and 48 minutes of airtime on the popular cable news network.
After Trump's incendiary remarks about Mexicans caused him to begin hemorrhaging corporate support, Fox News immediately rallied to defend him. Fox's Megyn Kelly even turned to conservative bomb-thrower Ann Coulter to defend Trump's anti-immigrant talk.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly said that while Trump may have inartfully articulated his point, he was “highlighting a problem...that is harming the nation.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham applauded Trump for his comments, saying, “Finally, someone is taking on Bush,” and calling Trump “someone who is channeling our frustration with the system.” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson lashed out at the Republican National Committee (RNC) for reportedly scolding Trump, asking, “Don't you want to see what he might just say on the debate stage? I know I do.”
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested that GOP presidential candidates follow Trump's lead because he is “saying things that need to be said, and if the other candidates are smart,” they'll follow suit.
Latinos don't agree. As the Washington Post pointed out, “Trump's unfavorable ratings among Hispanics rose sharply from 60 percent in May to 81 percent now.”
Flashback to 2012, when a slew of conservative media figures were calling for a change in tone towards Latinos in the wake of GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney's disastrous "self-deportation" comments and the decisive Republican defeat at the polls. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said, “The language of dealing with Latinos has to be changed.” Fox host Bill O'Reilly said, “The Republican party has to figure out what message in their philosophy is going to be accepted by black and Latino voters. They have to get a message to them. And they haven't done it.”
According to Nexis transcripts from the November 20, 2012 edition of Fox News' Hannity, conservative commentator David Webb advised Republicans to “get better and engage in communities on policies, not because it's different for Hispanics or Blacks but because it is good for the American people.”
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson offered that “you have to reach out to the Latinos. You have to have immigration reform,” on the November 15, 2012 edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Fellow Fox host Jeanine Pirro agreed, saying, “And, you know, the Republican party is at a very crucial point. They have to make a decision as to what they're going to do to reach out to everyone, to be the party of -- and I have even using the word ”inclusion" (via Nexis).
As Media Matters wrote back in 2013, “The schism among conservatives on how to approach immigration reform and Latino voters in general isn't going away.” So even though conservative politicians are aggressively courting the Latino vote in battleground states, conservative media have been championing Donald Trump. This is placing conservative Latino civic involvement groups like the Libre Initiative in a difficult situation.
To be fair, current polling has found that a “clear majority of Hispanic voters recognize the difference between Trump and the Republican Party in this controversy.” But nonetheless, Trump's popularity among Republicans continues to soar.