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  • Right-wing media are rallying to defend the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the border 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is separating immigrant children from their parents or legal guardians after they cross the border, with at least 2,000 children taken from their parents since April 19. The administration’s merciless and inhumane policy has spurred numerous heartbreaking stories, including reports of a breastfeeding baby who was ripped from her mother, a Honduran father separated from his family who took his own life, and children who are held in cages alongside strangers. Yet right-wing media figures have been quick to defend the policy and dismiss its inherent cruelty:

    • Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak justified separating families at the border, saying the Border Patrol facilities are "better than what they had." Pollak also claimed that ICE taking children from their parents and putting them in detention facilities is “just about caring for the kids.”

    • Right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza, who recently received a pardon from President Donald Trump, questioned whether immigrant parents are “the ones choosing to separate their families.”

    • Fox's Pete Hegseth defended the separations because the children get food and "soccer and video games." Hegseth also called images of detained children “quite compassionate,” and said the policy was “defensible.”

    • Fox News’ Trish Regan argued that Trump is showing asylum-seeking families "tough love" by taking children away from their parents.

    • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce called for White House press briefings to end after reporters confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the separation of families.

    • Fox's Jesse Watters argued that the White House should "start ripping press passes away" from reporters who ask about families getting separated at the border. Watters also said that “some would say” that separation is “a more humane policy” than detaining the families together.

    • In a series of tweets, Twitter troll Bill Mitchell aggressively defended the policy, accusing the media of focusing on “#FakeNews ‘concentration camps,’” complaining about the money spent to keep the children captive, suggested that many of the children are “not with their families at all - they are with smugglers” (only a very small percentage of cases involve smuggling and often a bona fide relationship between the child and adult is clear), and claiming, “President Trump is PROTECTING these children.”

    • Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade downplayed “the so-called separation of kids and parents” at the border, arguing that the Democrats are using it to distract from the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said that families are “choosing to be separated” by showing up at the border. She also argued that “you can't even really blame an administration” for the separation policy.

    • Her fellow Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that “the part that is troubling” is not children being ripped from their parents, but the parents choosing to come to the United States in the first place. Doocy also argued that the cages some children are being housed in shouldn’t be called “cages” because rather they are “walls [built] out of chain link fences," and he defended family separation by suggesting the U.S. government spends a lot of money to “make sure that those kids wind up with all that stuff” that detention facilities offer.

    • Fox & Friends repeated or referenced Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s lies about family separation throughout the June 18 broadcast. Nielsen initially claimed that separation wasn’t happening -- it is.

    • Right-wing troll Mike Cernovich said that Trump was “keeping [children] safe in dorms,” and he accused former President Barack Obama of giving children “to human traffickers.”

    • Fox host and Trump lackey Sean Hannity claimed that the policy of separation “took place in previous administrations” (neither the Obama nor the Bush administration separated families as a matter of policy). Hannity also accused the media of having an “obsession” with the “so-called policy of separating illegal immigrant families.”    

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the “outrage” over the separation policy “hilarious,” complained about watching “our country try to contort itself into other peoples' cultures,” and excused the separations because the children have “entertainment, sports, tutoring, medical, dental, four meals a day, and clean, decent housing” even though their “parents irresponsibly tried to bring them across the border illegally.” On her Fox show, Ingraham called the administration’s child detention centers “essentially summer camps” and compared them to “boarding schools.”

    • Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn choose not to editorialize on the cruelty of family separation itself, instead attacking the "discourse" around separation policy and claiming it is what's wrong with Democrats and media.

    • Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter warned the president not to fall for “these child actors weeping and crying on” cable news.

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the outrage over family separation “an entirely manufactured crisis” and claimed “it happened during the Obama administration” too (it didn’t).  

    • One America News Network correspondent and internet troll Jack Posobiec defended the policy by fearmongering that children crossing the border could be with traffickers as opposed to family members. There is clear evidence of the relationship between many of the children in detention and the adult that accompanied them.

    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, a frequent cable news guest, contended that “Obama and Trump have same child protection policy” (they do not).

    • Fox’s David Bossie attempted to shift the blame onto the parents, arguing that “if they don't become criminals, they're not separated.” He also claimed that Trump is just “following the law,” ignoring the reality that separation is a Trump administration policy, not the law.

    • Fox host Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that people speaking up against America detaining children in cages just want to "change your country forever."

    • Chris Bedford, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation, criticized the "hyperbole" over family separation and child detention.

    • Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge attempted to paint Latin American children as violent by publishing a photo of children in Azaz, Syria.

    • Turning Point USA spokesperson Candace Owens claimed that “these policies were in place” during the Obama administration (they were not).

    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter aggressively defended the policy, suggesting that the U.S. ought to “separate the children and then send them all away” and “in prison (sic) the parents until they serve their sentence then throw them out.”

    • Infowars frontman and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that separation has been the “standard procedure for decades” when you “pick up a group of a hundred people and you have no idea who the hell they are.” Infowars also claimed that Trump had exposed “the hoax that the US is mistreating migrant children.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro fallaciously argued that Trump is simply “enforcing the law on the books.”

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk posted a series of tweets fearmongering about “illegal immigration” and claimed that “all of this happened for 8 years under Obama” (nope).

    • NRATV host Dan Bongino claimed that reporting on the “immigration/children story” is “propaganda, nothing more” and argued that anyone who believed it is “delirious, and should seek professional help.”

    • Radio talk show host Ben Ferguson shared an image on Facebook claiming that policies of separating children from “illegal parents” had been in effect since 2009 and that Democrats just started talking about the issue because “they only care about making Trump look ‘bad.’” The post has been shared over 100,000 times.

    • Conservative commentator Dick Morris claimed that families seeking asylum at the borders were part of a “scam” in which adult immigrants were “abusers” who are using their children as a “battering ram to force their way into the country.” He also said the solution to this problem is to deny asylum to all immigrants who come to the border with a child.

    • Fox New contributor and Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich posted a series of tweets comparing the separation of asylum-seeking families to the separation of children and arrested parents and supporting Sarah Sanders’ claims in which she portrayed “illegal aliens” as criminals who are responsible for separating U.S. families permanently by “committing murder or killing through drunk driving.”

    • Conservative Review TV’s Jon Miller claimed that media are trying to push controversy around separation policies in order to “distract from the disastrous IG report and anything else this president has done that will cause people to vote for him.”

    • Fox News’ Tomi Lahren tweeted that “we owe ILLEGAL immigrants NOTHING,” and suggested that family separation is just one of the “consequences” parents have to accept when they “drag [their] kids over here ILLEGALLY.”

  • Fox News virtually ignores audio of crying immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration

    CNN and MSNBC have both repeatedly played the recording. Fox News has repeatedly glossed over and lied about the administration’s policy.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is keeping its audience in the dark regarding recently released audio of immigrant children in American detention facilities crying for their parents. As Fox hosts continue to gloss over and lie about the Trump administration’s policy decision to separate families at the border, in contrast, MSNBC and CNN have all played the heart-wrenching audio almost every hour since ProPublica released it to the public.

    On June 18, investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica published an audio recording of the “desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children [who had been] separated from their parents” by U.S. authorities:

    According to a Media Matters review, since ProPublica’s publication of the audio at 3:51 p.m., Fox News has all but ignored it, airing only a total of five seconds of the audio during the 11 p.m. hour on June 18. Later in the hour, host Shannon Bream highlighted apparent “criticism” of New York magazine White House correspondent Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during the June 18 White House press briefing. Hours earlier on The Five, co-host Dana Perino acknowledged the audio and admitted it would “pull at heartstrings,” but never actually played the recording for viewers.

    According to a Media Matters review, MSNBC has played the recording at least once during every hour since its 4 p.m. hour yesterday. CNN has played the recording at least once every hour since its 5 p.m. hour.

    Rather than informing its viewers about the real human effects of the Trump administration’s policy decision, Fox News hosts are attempting to put a positive spin on the practice of separating children from their parents, lying through their teeth about what’s happening, and mocking people who are outraged by a policy that the United Nations human rights office has deemed “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.” And, like with almost every other damning report regarding the Trump administration, Fox News has chosen to bury its head in the sand when it comes to audio evidence of what’s happening on the border. The combination leaves the network’s viewers in the dark about a reprehensible policy that a previous Homeland Security secretary referred to as not just “ineffective” but “immoral and un-American.”

  • On Fox, ICE director defends tearing asylum-seeking families apart using a misleading statistic on human smuggling

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, appeared on Fox News June 19 to defend the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children and parents of asylum-seeking families at the border, pushing the misleading talking point that “there's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.” According to a Washington Post reporter, while it is true the number of adults arriving at the border with children not their own has increased by about 315 percent, these cases make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also used the misleading statistic at a White House press briefing, arguing that immigrant children arriving at the southern border are being used as “pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers.”

    But The Washington Post’s Philip Bump obtained the full data behind the statistic and found that the claim overstates the problem of human smuggling at the border. “In other words,” Bump wrote, “for every 1,000 families that approached the border in the first five months of this fiscal year, only six allegedly involved individuals pretending to be a child’s parents.”

    From the June 19 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Did you see [Sen.] Ted Cruz [(R-TX)]'s idea? He's got a proposal floating out there. More immigration judges, maybe more beds, et cetera. That would help process the system faster. And then you only separate families in the event that there is, I think, aggravated criminal activity or potential harm. I believe that's the way it's phrased. What do you think of Senator Cruz's idea, sir?

    THOMAS HOMAN (ACTING ICE DIRECTOR): I haven't seen his bill, but you know what, we got to talk about that because we've seen over a 300 percent increase on people claiming to be parents of children, and they're not. These children are being used by the criminal organizations as pawns and being rented to claim as family units so they don't get detained. So -- I haven't seen that legislation. We need to make sure, number one, we protect these children being used by these criminal organizations as bait. There's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.

    Homan has a history of retreating to Fox to defend his agency’s ruthless, anti-immigrant practices. In March, one ICE spokesperson quit after Homan mandated ICE field offices lie about the number of undocumented immigrants able to evade arrest after being warned of an upcoming ICE raid by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. The number of failed arrests was vastly overstated, but Fox News repeatedly broadcast the erroneous figure before it was proved untrue, and Media Matters did not find any instance in which the network corrected the information.

  • A Fox "voter fraud" darling and Breitbart columnist lost big in federal court -- and got personally reprimanded

    The federal court judge ruled that Kris Kobach's law wrongly prevented people from voting; Fox News barely mentioned the trial

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Kansas secretary of state and Breitbart columnist Kris Kobach, who frequently pushes voter fraud misinformation on Fox News, spectacularly failed in his effort to mount a defense for his state’s voter registration law in a federal court trial in March. Federal judge Julie Robinson both struck down the Kansas law and ordered Kobach to take remedial classes after repeatedly violating the judge’s orders, including trying to introduce evidence after Robinson had specifically excluded it. Fox, which has pushed the debunked specter of widespread voter fraud for a decade, provided no coverage of the trial as it progressed between March 6 and March 19.

    In 2013, Kansas began enforcing the Kobach-backed Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) law, which required residents who did not have a driver’s license to show proof of citizenship with documents such as a birth certificate or U.S. passport when registering to vote. In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing the law after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit, arguing that the law violated the federal National Voter Registration Act, which requires state voter registration forms to merely “contain an attestation that the applicant meets” eligibility requirements, such as citizenship. According to the ACLU, the law blocked tens of thousands of voter registrations in Kansas.

    Kobach, who writes columns for Breitbart.com, has appeared on Fox News numerous times; a search of Nexis transcripts, which cover less than half of Fox’s shows, revealed nearly 60 appearances by Kobach. During a number of these appearances, he pushed an anti-immigrant agenda. He has also discussed the Kansas voter registration law at least twice on Fox News.

    Fox has spent years pushing bunk voter fraud claims and supporting Republican efforts to make voting harder in response to the fear they inspire.Considering that history, one might expect the network to closely cover Kobach’s chance to prove the necessity of stringent voter identification laws. But that hasn’t been the case; according to a search of closed-captioning transcripts on SnapStream and iQ media, Fox mentioned the trial only twice, in two short news updates on March 7, for a grand total of 50 seconds of coverage of a trial that stretched over six days.

    Perhaps Fox’s lackluster coverage was due to Kobach’s repeated blunders during the trial. Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern, in an article headlined “Kris Kobach is a loser,” wrote that the trial was “an unmitigated disaster for Kobach—a merciless rebuke of his professional life’s work.” And HuffPost voting rights reporter Sam Levine noted that a witness Kobach called forward during the trial to supposedly show how easy it was to register without the required documents actually “testified there was a burdensome process” to prove her citizenship and register to vote. (This sloppiness may have been foreseeable, as Kobach has been caught plagiarizing a column for Breitbart; one of Kobach’s citations for that Breitbart column was a white nationalist writer with a reported history of Holocaust denialism.)

    The following quotes from the daily coverage of the trial by Kansas City NPR member station KCUR show just how embarrassing Kobach’s performance was:

    Day 1: The judge scolded Kobach and his team for improperly trying to introduce new evidence and not knowing courtroom rules.

    • “Kobach and an attorney from his office, Sue Becker, got off to a rocky start when they were blocked from showing to the court — and asking witnesses questions about — multiple documents that Kobach’s team hadn’t formally introduced as evidence. ‘Evidence 101 — not going to do it,’ said Judge Julie Robinson.”
    • “Kobach’s side repeatedly stumbled on other rules, too, leading the judge to cut off some of their lines of questioning to the witnesses.”
    • “In another instance, Becker appeared not to understand the rules for referencing depositions in court. She stood and took directions from the judge.”

    Day 2: Kobach’s team again tried to improperly introduce evidence

    • “Kobach’s legal team continued to trip up on courtroom procedures, such as how to introduce evidence and quote from depositions while cross-examining witnesses.”

    Day 3: Kobach’s legal team again violated courtroom procedure.

    • “The day’s court session ended abruptly amid a string of admonishments from the judge for the Kobach team, which repeatedly tried maneuvers that would have violated trial procedure.”

    Day 5: Kobach still had trouble properly introducing evidence, and one of his witnesses repeatedly interrupted the judge.

    • “Kobach’s office faced more hurdles to entering evidence — things the legal team hadn’t provided in advance of trial. That included new calculations related to how often non-citizens vote.”
    • “In the afternoon, testimony from Old Dominion University’s Jesse Richman devolved quickly into argument. In the course of answering questions from the ACLU and Robinson about his data sources, the political science professor repeatedly interrupted the judge.”

    Day 6: Kobach team witness Jesse Richman admitted a racist method for flagging potential noncitizen voters and agreed Kobach’s and Trump’s claim of millions of illegal votes in the 2016 election is baseless.

    • “An ACLU lawyer asked him whether he would label ‘Carlos Murguia’ foreign, and when Richman replied he probably would, revealed Murguia is a federal judge in that very courthouse.”
    • “The ACLU also showed a 2016 video in which Kobach, while speaking with reporters, backs President Trump’s claims that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of millions of illegally cast ballots. Richman agreed with an ACLU lawyer that his research hasn’t shown this to be true and he doesn’t know of any research that has.”

    Day 7: The judge said a Kobach lawyer was “being schizophrenic” over failure to properly present witness testimony from a pollster.

    • “[Kobach’s team] struggled to include the pollster’s testimony in the trial, tripping up again on court rules that require disclosing expert witnesses in advance. Kobach lawyer Sue Becker argued Judge Julie Robinson had already said McFerron is an expert witness, which the judge promptly explained wasn’t true. Becker drew consternation from Robinson and ACLU lawyers by vacillating back and forth between treating McFerron as an expert witness or simply as a fact witness who was presenting poll results. ‘You're being schizophrenic,’ Robinson told Becker.”

    Though the trial ended on March 19, that wasn’t the end to Kobach’s problems regarding the ACLU’s lawsuit. On March 20, the same judge, Julie Robinson, presided over a contempt hearing stemming from Kobach’s apparent failure to enforce her May 2016 order to register the tens of thousands of voters blocked from his law. NPR reported that it didn’t go well for Kobach:

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a tongue lashing Tuesday from the judge who will decide whether he violated federal law by blocking tens of thousands of voter applications.

    Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in "gamesmanship" and skirting her orders.

    In the nearly two years since Robinson ordered him to register those voters, she said, he has forced her and the American Civil Liberties Union to monitor his actions down to the tiniest details in an effort to get him to comply.

    "I've had to police this over and over and over again," she said.

    [...]

    Kobach, who hopes to be Kansas' next governor, asked the judge not to find him in contempt. The Republican candidate argued he doesn't control the county officials who carry out logistics such as sending postcards to voters to let them know where their polling stations are.

    [...]

    Robinson, at times sounding livid with the secretary, gave him a dressing-down.

    "These people are not second-class registered voters," she told him. "You assured me that they had or they would get the postcards."

    On April 18, Judge Robinson ordered Kobach to be held in contempt of court for disobeying her orders to register voters, mandating that Kobach pay for the ACLU’s attorney fees for the case. Two months later, Judge Robinson struck down Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. HuffPost’s Sam Levine reported on June 18 that the judge “found that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The court specifically rejected Kobach and Fox’s argument about voter fraud, finding that the law “acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”

    Judge Robinson additionally “sanctioned Kobach with six hours of continuing legal education related to rules of civil procedure or evidence” due to his repeated violations of his rules throughout the trial.

    As of publishing, there is no word from Breitbart or Fox News on the ruling.

  • Media help GOP brand their bill that would drastically cut legal immigration as “moderate,” “a compromise”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will meet with House Republicans to discuss two immigration bills; both would drastically cut legal immigration and fail to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, but media outlets have borrowed language from conservatives to brand one of them a “compromise” or “moderate” option.

    The first bill, spearheaded by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would cut legal immigration by 40 percent according to some calculations, by ending the diversity visa lottery and ending the family-based immigration system. The bill would also make it easier to deport noncriminal undocumented immigrants by making their presence in the country itself a criminal offense, fund the border wall, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, and abandon plans for a previously discussed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

    The second bill, which was brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and agreed upon by a group of conservatives and Republican moderates, is being promoted as a “compromise.” While it would not go as far as the Goodlatte bill, the Ryan bill would also reduce legal immigration by ending the diversity visa lottery and some forms of family-based immigration, allow for broader immigration enforcement, and fund the border wall. Unlike the other bill, this proposal would offer Dreamers a long pathway to citizenship. Contrary to what Republicans have claimed, it would not address the dire situation at the border, where immigrant children are being separated from their parents.

    It is misleading to label such a proposal a “compromise” without making note of the fact that only hard-line conservatives and Republican moderates had arrived at a consensus; the extreme terms of the bill only serve to isolate progressives and immigrant rights activists. During a call with immigrant advocacy groups, Patrice Lawrence, the national policy and advocacy director for UndocuBlack Network, explained, “The recent White House 2.0 or Ryan Bill is the furthest thing from compromise and will not benefit Dreamers in any way.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, noted that the so-called “compromise” bill “is worse than the White House proposal that was soundly defeated on the Senate floor. This bill is incredibly stingy to Dreamers, it turbocharges deportations, it eviscerates asylum, and it calls for the construction of [a] stupid and unnecessary border wall.”

    Nonetheless, many media outlets have been downplaying the bill’s anti-immigrant provisions. Throughout the day, CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip has called the Ryan bill “a compromise” and a “moderate” bill. Speaking to two Democratic congressmen yesterday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt referred to the proposal as “a compromise bill on immigration [that] would deal with Dreamers” and incorrectly reported that part of the legislation would deal with “prohibiting the separation of children from their parents.” Fox has called the legislation a “consensus bill” and “a moderate one,” and at one point the network hosted an anti-immigration advocate, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, who complained that the bill would not go far enough. Meanwhile, many other outlets ran with the Republican lie that the Ryan bill would stop the practice of separating families.

  • Ann Coulter calls children separated from families at border "child actors" and begs Trump: "Don't fall for the actor children"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative author Ann Coulter claimed children being separated from their parents at the border by the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy on unauthorized immigration are faking their emotional trauma. According to news reports, the children can suffer from “toxic stress” caused by the separation.  

    Coulter appeared on the June 17 edition of Fox News’ The Next Revolution and attempted to directly address President Donald Trump, who routinely watches Fox News. She stated: “These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now -- do not fall for it, Mr. President. I get very nervous about the president getting his news from TV.” Coulter added: “Don’t fall for the actor children.”

    Coulter’s language echoes that of fringe and conspiracy theorist media figures like Alex Jones who routinely accuse school shooting survivors of being “crisis actors.”