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  • The absurd ways conservatives are justifying Trump’s lawless efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (7/10/19): This post has been updated with additional examples.

    After President Donald Trump announced that he would defy the Supreme Court to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, conservative media figures rushed to defend the administration.

    On June 27, the Supreme Court effectively blocked the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the upcoming census, finding that it gave “contrived reasons” and demanding “genuine justifications” for the question. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, a memo from a “prominent Republican redistricting strategist” revealed that the Trump administration’s motive for adding the question may be to increase the political power of white Republicans.

    But since Trump tweeted on July 3 that he would make up a new rationale to include a citizenship question in the census -- possibly by an executive order -- and basically admitted that the administration had been lying this whole time, Fox News and others in right-wing media have ignored the administration’s reversal and ginned up a variety of absurd justifications for adding the question.

    Some conservatives misleadingly claimed the Obama administration removed a citizenship question from the 2010 census

    A Fox & Friends guest falsely claimed the Obama administration “simply removed” a citizenship question from the census in 2010. But the decennial census hasn't included a nationwide citizenship question since 1950.​ In 1970, the citizenship question moved to a long-form questionnaire sent to fewer than 20% of American households. In 2010, the long-form questionnaire was replaced by the annual American Community Survey, which also includes a citizenship question.

    Pro-Trump blogger Jim Hoft also pushed the misleading claim in an article headlined “The 2000 US Census Asked Citizenship Question — Obama Deleted it in 2010.”

    Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh: “The real question here is why did it come off of the census. The controversy here should not be putting it back on, the real question is who removed it? And we know the answer to that: Barack Hussein O. and Michelle my belle O.”

    Others claimed the repeated inclusion of the word “citizens” in the 14th Amendment gives Trump justification for asking the question

    A Wall Street Journal op-ed claimed that “the Constitution itself requires the collection of citizenship information” and recommended that Trump cite Section 2 of the 14th Amendment in an executive order.

    Fox & Friends guest co-host Pete Hegseth also cited repeated mentions of the word “citizens” in the 14th Amendment to support Trump’s continued attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

    Daily Wire editor-at-large Josh Hammer: “One friend had a brilliant suggestion that struck me as both innovative and textually ironclad: Utilize the infrequently invoked second section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which seems to mandate that the federal government have data pertaining to the state-by-state numbers of (male and aged over 21 years old) citizens for purposes of apportionment and congressional representation.”

    Some Fox News figures and guests openly used partisan political justifications for including a citizenship question on the census

    Fox & Friends First guest George Rodriguez said the Trump administration should add a citizenship question to “punish” congressional districts that have high numbers of undocumented immigrants.

    Fox guest Katrina Pierson defended possible executive action by Trump “to force” a citizenship question on the census as a counter to a “power grab” by Democrats through immigration.

    Fox anchor Bret Baier pushed a Republican proposal to apportion congressional districts based on citizens instead of total number of residents.

    Conservatives dismissed evidence that racist motive was behind including a citizenship question

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed “there is nothing racial about a citizenship question” on the census, despite evidence showing that the question was intentionally crafted to advantage non-Hispanic whites and the Republican Party.

    Fox contributor Bill McGurn said of opposition to the question: “The race argument, that’s what you say when you don’t have an argument.”

    Fox contributor Lawrence Jones: “Calling this racist” is “a tool historically that Democrats have used to shut down the debate of this conversation.”

    American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said Democrats’ opposition to including a citizenship question “is all part of these socialists Democrats’ attempt to weaken the concept of citizenry, to weaken the concept of being a citizen and the rights that come to you with that privilege, and changing the whole definition of what it means to be an American.”

    Fox contributor Deroy Murdock: “This isn’t some paranoid, right-wing racist thing that [Trump] cooked up in the Oval Office.”

    Fox contributor Marc Thiessen: “It does not disadvantage minorities.” 

    Conservatives dismissed concern that including a citizenship question would make the census count less accurate

    Fox host Jesse Watters asked why “Democrats don’t want the federal government to have an accurate read on who is in the country” by opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question. In reality, experts have said including the question would lead to a less accurate census as many non-citizens would not respond to the census.

    Fox anchor Harris Faulkner dismissed Democratic concerns that noncitizens might “feel targeted,” saying, “They just won’t answer.”

    Some Fox figures and guests mixed up a citizenship question with immigration status

    Hegseth supported adding a citizenship question by saying it’s important “to know whether a human being here is legal or not illegal.” The census does not ask about immigration status.

    Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz: “The idea that we would ask whether or not somebody’s here legally or not is a very reasonable question.”

    Fox guest Brad Blakeman: “We have every right to ask that question. It’s beyond a right, it’s an obligation to find out how many Americans are legally here.”

    Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren: “‘Are you a citizen?’ should be the first question on the damn census! We deserve to know how many illegals are in this country and who we are paying for! Also, illegals should never determine funding or representation!!”

    Some conservatives disparaged a federal judge restricting the Trump administration’s moves in census case

    Hoft: “Obama-Appointed Activist Judge Blocks DOJ Motion to WIthdraw Legal Team on Census Case.”

    Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “Yet Another Obama-Appointed Judge About to Get His Nose Rubbed in It.”

    And some Fox figures didn’t even try to find a real legal argument for adding a citizenship question

    Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham simply pointed to Canada’s inclusion of a citizenship question on its census to justify Trump’s attempted reversal.

    Fox host Steve Hilton: “So what” if the Trump administration lied about why it wanted to include a citizenship question?

  • Fox personalities in the news and opinion divisions fearmonger that asylum-seekers could “fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the May 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, “straight news” correspondent Griff Jenkins -- filling in as co-host -- claimed that “the Border Patrol says behind closed doors … once we just release [migrant or asylum-seeking] adult single males into the community, it is going to fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country on that border.” Jenkins also said that he “wish[es] they would say it publicly more often.” 

    Later in the day, another Fox News personality made a similar point. Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner, who also anchors the companion "news" show Outnumbered Overtime, discussed the possibility of Transportation Security Administration agents joining Border Patrol on the border "to keep that line, that sovereignty down there," again suggesting that immigration is a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

    On the May 23 edition of Outnumbered Overtime, Fox News contributor and former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan similarly claimed that “if we fail to detain [adult individual asylum-seekers] until they see a judge, you will lose the border … [and] you’re going to see an unprecedented surge of all sorts of chaos on the border.” Faulkner commented that Homan’s comment “gives me chills.”  

    Fox News has consistently driven the nativist narrative that immigration “is a flat-out invasion” of the United States. Fox & Friends has played a key role in driving the misinformation. Co-host Steve Doocy recently praised Jenkins for a report fearmongering about “rumors of ebola” in a migrant caravan; Jenkins had reported on the rumors but had debunked them in the same report. 

    As The Washington Post reported, the “militaristic ‘invasion’ metaphor” is “one of the oldest and most persistent anti-immigration metaphors in the country’s history, employed to oppose Irish Catholics, Asians, Latinos, Germans, Jews and just about everyone except white Protestants of English ancestry who now lives in America.” Framing immigration as an “invasion” erases the individual stories and reasons people have for seeking to live in the United States, replacing it with an imaginary, monolithic “army” seeking to destroy the country.  

  • Fox plays defense for Trump after Democrats ask the IRS for his tax returns 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 3, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) asked the Internal Revenue Service to deliver the last six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the committee. Trump’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have both forcefully responded to the committee’s request, claiming Democrats have no right to the documents -- and Fox News seems to agree.

    Hosts, contributors, and guests on the network suggested that Democrats’ efforts to view the documents are a politically motivated “fishing expedition” and claimed that congressional Democrats are weaponizing the IRS and abusing their power.

    But in reality, there are plenty of good reasons for seeking a president’s tax returns. And while the law Neal is relying on to request them has not previously been used for that purpose, it also hasn’t ever been needed; Trump is the first president in 40 years to forgo releasing his tax returns. Additionally, Republicans used the same law in 2014 to access the returns from several partisan groups and then made the documents public.

    Fox figures also argued that the public likely doesn’t care about the returns. But a recent poll found that the majority of Americans -- 56% -- want Trump to release his returns to the public.

    Here are some of Fox’s reactions:

    Fox claim: The request is an attempt to change the narrative from the Mueller report or other issues

    After special counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report to the attorney general about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that Democrats are asking for Trump’s returns to “sow doubt in the public mind [and] undermine Mueller’s conclusion” by “implying a coverup” on his tax returns.

    Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs hosted frequent Fox guest Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who argued that requesting Trump’s tax returns is an “effort by Democrats to distract us from how corrupt the DNC and Clinton campaign were.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy argued that Democrats have moved on from collusion and “changed the narrative now to the taxes.” Fox contributor Dan Bongino agreed that Democrats “switched the narrative,” saying, “Now that obstruction isn't working, they are going to move on to some kind of financial collusion with the Trump tax returns.”

    Kayleigh McEnany, frequent Fox guest and national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 campaign, claimed Democrats are “so upset that the Mueller report turned up no collusion, no obstruction. So they’re returning back to the old tactic of let’s go after the tax returns.”  

    Fox claim: Requesting the returns is a politically motivated “fishing expedition” to find anything at all on Trump

    Fox regular and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed the request as “a political fishing expedition” and complained that Democrats “are not going after him because of some particular reason. They want to go in a fishing expedition and find something that they can hang over his head.”

    Fox contributor Byron York claimed on multiple Fox programs that the IRS request is a “fishing expedition.” On Fox Business, Dobbs told York that he didn’t use the phrase “fishing expedition” himself because he believes “that nomenclature trivializes what is a venal, venomous, ignorant assault against a sitting president.” Dobbs also claimed that the request is “absolutely beyond the proper bounds of the intent of the Constitution or the statutory authority of the United States Congress.”  

    Fox hosts Sandra Smith and Bill Hemmer hosted White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley and failed to push back when he asserted that if the government “gave the Mueller report to the entire press corps” along with Trump’s tax returns, “they’d come up with something else. It is never good enough.”

    Fox claim: Democrats are weaponizing the IRS

    Fox contributor Karl Rove claimed that “every American, Republican or Democrat, ought to be concerned about weaponizing the IRS in this manner,” and he said that Democrats are looking for “anything they can find in order to bring [Trump] down.”

    Fox guest and Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler argued that Democrats are doing “exactly what the IRS did to the Tea Parties -- they targeted people based on their political affiliation.”

    Frequent Fox guest and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the IRS will “have to resist” the Democrats’ request “because it would be totally illegal.”

    On America’s Newsroom, McEnany accused Democrats of “using the IRS as a political weapon.”

    Fox claim: People aren’t interested in seeing Trump’s tax returns

    After Fox contributor Jessica Tarlov claimed that “people want to know how rich is the president actually,” Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner suggested that those people don’t actually exist. She asked Tarlov, “Have you talked to these people?” and, “Are they in the electorate? Where are these people?” Faulkner added that “America voted,” suggesting that Americans must not care about the returns since Trump won an election without releasing them.

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that "the majority" of "America doesn't care about seeing" Trump's tax returns.