A majority of viral caravan coverage on Facebook and YouTube came from right-leaning sources, which frequently pushed anti-immigrant disinformation
Since Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence slowly began making their way toward the U.S. southern border in a series of caravans, right-wing sources have dominated viral caravan content and coverage on Facebook and YouTube. A Media Matters study of Facebook and YouTube between October 13 and November 19 found that a majority of the caravan content with the most interactions came from right-leaning sources.
Among all sources analyzed in this study, Fox News had the most top-engaged Facebook links and page posts as well as the most caravan-related YouTube videos with over 100,000 views. On air, the cable network dedicated over 23 hours to caravan coverage in the first two weeks after the first caravan set off on October 13, and its reports often spread anti-immigrant disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Similarly, viral right-leaning caravan coverage on Facebook was riddled with anti-immigrant false news. On YouTube -- where far-right misinformation thrives -- some of the right-leaning channels dominating caravan-related video content were news aggregators run by sources that we could not verify, and others featured “alt-right” and far-right personalities.
Of the 267 caravan-related Facebook posts with the most interactions, 171 were posted by right-leaning pages. Fifty-one of these posts came from Facebook pages without any political alignment (19.1 percent) and 45 came from left-leaning pages (16.9 percent).
During the 38 days analyzed, Fox News’ main Facebook page had by far the highest number of posts with high engagement related to the migrant caravan, with 42 such posts (compared to the second highest number,the page of right-leaning The Daily Caller, which had 18 page posts). Nine of the 13 pages with five or more viral posts related to the caravan came from right-leaning sources. These right-leaning pages were Fox News, The Daily Caller, Ben Shapiro, Breitbart, Patriots United, ForAmerica, American Voices, Judicial Watch, and Conservative Tribune.
Viral content from right-leaning Facebook pages often depicted the migrant caravan as a violent invasion. The Facebook page American Voices, a channel on Facebook’s streaming service Facebook Watch, is run by the right-wing media outlet The Daily Caller and had multiple viral video posts that spread misinformation on the caravan and painted migrants as violent or criminal.
The most popular caravan post from American Voices, which has earned over 100,000 interactions and 5.8 million views, is a video that called the caravan a “potential crisis” and stoked fear about a supposed lack of defenses on the border. The video also misrepresented a fence on a specific part of the southern border as that area’s only “defense against the caravan.” Other viral videos from American Voices: falsely speculated that some members of the caravan weren’t from Central and South America; associated migrants and asylum seekers in the caravan with drug smugglers; and featured a clip of a Fox News guest calling the migrant caravan’s journey an “invasion and an act of war.”
Other viral posts from right-leaning pages spread baseless right-wing conspiracy theories about the nationality of members of the caravan and painted the caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers as an “invasion.”
Of the 278 most popular links on Facebook, 163 went to right-leaning websites (58.6 percent); only 14 links came from left-leaning websites (5.0 percent), and 101 came from websites without political alignment (36.3 percent).
As with Facebook pages, right-leaning websites made up the majority of domains with numerous top links to caravan-related content. Fox News once again topped caravan coverage on Facebook, with 32 top-performing links. Seven of the 12 domains with the most links in our study belonged to right-leaning outlets. The top right-leaning outlets were Fox News, Daily Wire, Breitbart, Western Journal, The Daily Caller, American Military News, and The Washington Times.
Some top links from right-leaning websites advocated for violence on the border against migrants and asylum-seekers, characterizing them as invaders. On Glenn Beck’s personal site and his outlet The Blaze, he penned an article titled “This is not a caravan, it’s an INVASION.” In it he claimed that the caravan was a “political stunt” to provoke violence from the National Guard and Border Patrol. Links to both earned over 50,000 interactions on Facebook. In a Fox News op-ed, political contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote that the caravan was “attempting to invade and attack the U.S.,” and he called on the president and Congress to stop the “attack.” The op-ed earned almost 48,000 interactions on Facebook.
Other right-leaning websites pushed false information on the caravan. Five of the top links on Facebook included debunked claims from a Project Veritas video that alleged that former senatorial candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) campaign was illegally giving campaign funds to help the caravan.
The right-wing group Judicial Watch had multiple top links on Facebook that spread anti-immigrant conspiracies, including: an article falsely stating that the caravan poses a “serious public health threat”; one calling members of the caravan “gangbangers”; another calling the caravan a “movement that’s benefiting human smugglers”; and one article speculating that ISIS terrorists could be part of the caravan. All of these articles earned over 40,000 interactions on Facebook, with the most popular post earning over 84,000 interactions.
Eighty-five of the 128 caravan-related videos with over 100,000 views on YouTube were posted by right-leaning channels (66.4 percent). Only 24 caravan-related videos from channels without political alignment (18.8 percent) and 19 videos from left-leaning channels (14.8 percent) earned over 100,000 views.
Fox News’ YouTube channel posted the highest number of top-viewed videos about the migrant caravan, with Fox Business’ channel coming in third. The YouTube channel with the second highest number of top-viewed videos was kylekuttertv, with 14 caravan-related videos earning over 100,000 views apiece. Kylekuttertv is an unverified news aggregation channel, whose typically 30- to 60-minute videos feature a compilation of mainstream, right-wing, and fringe YouTube news clips framed under far-right and conspiracy-theory narratives, which are detailed in the video titles and descriptions.
Another unverified right-leaning news aggregation channel, GLOBAL News, had multiple top-viewed videos. GLOBAL News and kylekuttertv have each earned tens of millions of views, and they paint themselves as nonpartisan channels, while almost exclusively mixing clips from local media outlets with right-wing commentary from outlets including Fox News, NewsMax TV, and One America News Network.
Far-right and “alt-right” sources also had top-viewed YouTube videos on the caravan. The channel belonging to the far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media published three videos about the caravan that each earned over 100,000 views on YouTube. In one video, Rebel Media host Ezra Levant speculates about whether caravan members have “antifa-style or paramilitary-”style training, and then he goes on to say that migrants and asylum-seekers in the caravan are not claiming to be “refugees fleeing from danger” and are “just looking to, you know, get rich, I suppose.” In addition, numerous vloggers linked to the “alt-right” -- including Stefan Molyneux, James Allsup, and Tarl Warwick (known online as Styxhexenhammer666) -- all had top-viewed videos on YouTube in which they stoked fear about the caravan.
Other right-wing media figures also used YouTube to spread false news and conspiracy theories to stoke fear about immigrants. On his YouTube channel, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly falsely implied that George Soros funded the migrant caravan. In a video from The Blaze that earned over 500,000 views, Glenn Beck falsely stated that Venezuela financed the migrant caravan and then speculated that Cuban and Venezuelan spies and terrorists could be using the caravan as a “cover” to enter and attack the U.S.
We then individually reviewed all posts, links, and videos to flag for irrelevant content -- content that had nothing to do with the migrant caravan, content from satire sources like The Onion or The Babylon Bee, and content that mentioned the migrant caravan only tangentially -- and excluded it from the study.
Researchers then reviewed sources and coded them as either “left-leaning,” “right-leaning,” or without political alignment. For Facebook page data, the source coded was the Facebook page. For links on Facebook, the domain of each link was coded. And for YouTube videos, the channel was coded.
Most sources had been previously coded as part of an earlier Media Matters study, and we used the previous political-alignment codes for those pages. For new sources, two researchers independently coded each link, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. We determined the ideological alignment of a source by considering the source’s name and published content. Sources that expressed opposition to President Donald Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at liberals (e.g., protecting abortion rights, calling for action against gun violence, etc.) were coded as left-leaning. Sources that expressed support for Trump or focused on issues primarily aimed at conservatives (e.g., restricting abortion rights, downplaying gun violence, etc.) were coded as right-leaning. All right-wing and left-wing media outlets and organizations were automatically coded as right-leaning or left-leaning, respectively. Pages that did not have an ideological leaning in their content were coded as nonaligned. Coding conflicts were resolved between the two researchers with available information about the source’s political alignment.
Charts by Melissa Joskow.
On November 25, “hundreds of migrants” traveling in a caravan approached the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, “prompting federal authorities to launch tear gas in an apparent attempt to get the group to disperse,” The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The crowd that was tear-gassed included children. According to the Union-Tribune, “Federal authorities said the migrants tried to breach the border at multiple locations, leading to a number of assaults on Customs and Border Protection personnel and dozens of arrests.”
On Monday, Fox & Friends, which spent the days leading up to the midterm elections fearmongering about the migrants in the caravan, portrayed the migrants as violent invaders “storming our border.”
The show began with the hosts talking about the “hundreds of people, many from that migrant caravan,” who approached the border and saying that Border Patrol agents fired tear gas on the crowd. They did not mention that tear gas is a non-lethal chemical weapon banned from being used in war and that children were among those CBP attacked with the gas.
Guest co-host Pete Hegseth quipped that tear-gassing unruly migrants is simply “part of the way the world works.”
Pete Hegseth says that tear gassing migrants is “part of the way the world works.” pic.twitter.com/N16Pj2n2IW
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 26, 2018
The show hosted Ron Colburn, president of the nonprofit Border Patrol Foundation, to discuss what co-host Steve Doocy said were “hundreds of migrants” who attacked Border Patrol agents. (Doocy gave conflicting numbers, earlier saying “50 people” approached the border and “some” in that group “threw rocks at agents.”) Colburn said that the caravan “has a core of violence to it that basically communicates a sense of entitlement.”
Colburn disputed reports that tear gas was used, claiming that the agent was actually using pepper spray, which he defended because “it’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it.”
On Fox & Friends, Border Patrol Foundation president defends pepper spraying latinx migrants because “it’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it.” pic.twitter.com/QLdQXqqNno
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 26, 2018
Thirty-eight minutes into the show, Fox & Friends finally mentioned that children were among those attacked with chemical weapons, but the hosts and their guest, NRATV’s Dan Bongino, blamed the parents for putting them in the situation to begin with.
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt compared tear-gassing children to writing a speeding ticket, telling the parents, “If you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed.”
Ainsley Earhardt to women and children pepper sprayed by Border Patrol: “If you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed.” pic.twitter.com/2dF3qaKLGa
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 26, 2018
Fox & Friends repeatedly framed the migrants as an “invasion” throughout the midterm elections. Even though the elections are over, and after a brief lull in coverage of the matter on Fox, the invasion fearmongering remains -- Bongino said today that he didn’t “mean to be hyperbolic about it, but clearly what happened yesterday were people trying to invade our border.”
NRATV's Dan Bongino: “I don’t mean to be hyperbolic about it, but clearly what happened yesterday were people trying to invade our border.” pic.twitter.com/fh8mKdoIO3
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 26, 2018
Fox contributor Newt Gingrich also argued that the migrant caravan is part of a “psychological war” waged against the U.S. government that is “very often guided, by the way, by American leftists who are activists and American left-wing organizations.”
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, claimed that the left’s “goal is to find some way to embarrass the U.S. government so we can't even control our own border.” He told viewers that “we have to be prepared to stand up to that and to do whatever is necessary” or “you are not going to have a country.” He concluded, “I bet you that the elite media spends a lot more time today on what's happening on the border than they're going to spend on the death of a young American who was killed by an illegal immigrant.”
Newt Gingrich says there's a "war on the border" financed by "American leftists" and the choice is "you are either going to have a country and have a border or you are not going to have a country." pic.twitter.com/OfAlc4NZTv
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) November 26, 2018
The Fox & Friends hosts continued their laser-like focus on what the New York Post called “border chaos” throughout the third hour. They picked up where Gingrich left off and attempted to shame “the mainstream media elite” for covering Border Patrol’s tear-gassing of children and other migrants instead of the murder of Amanda Ferguson, a Texan teacher killed in a hit-and-run accident by an undocumented immigrant.
Fox & Friends is following their caravan coverage with a story of an undocumented immigrant charged in a lethal hit and run, and trying to shame the media into covering that. pic.twitter.com/XS7jLzuxbk
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) November 26, 2018
The tone of Fox & Friends’ caravan coverage this morning was clear. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz noted, “It is impossible to overstate how much Fox & Friends wants its audience (which includes President Trump) to be panicked about the situation at the border this morning.” Considering that it was Fox & Friends coverage that spurred Trump into sending the military to the border in the first place, and that was far from the first time he has directly responded to the show, the cruel inhumanity could be about to get a lot worse.
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Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is being attacked by conservative media and her opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, because a group of people affiliated with the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) marched in support of Abrams while openly carrying rifles. The conservative figures promoting the story have shown no tie between the New Black Panther Party and Abrams -- the story is just yet another conservative media smear that falsely connects the fringe hate group to mainstream Democratic figures.
Photos of NBPP members with campaign signs supporting Abrams were first posted to Facebook on the evening of November 3, by two pages seemingly affiliated with the fringe organization. A few hours later, users began sharing these posts to right-wing Facebook groups, including one group dedicated to Kemp’s gubernatorial bid that says it’s not affiliated with the campaign. While the NBPP photos were being spread, a video posted by a Kemp supporter on Facebook showing the NBPP members was also making rounds on right-wing groups.
The next morning, Kemp shared one of the photos posted by the NBPP on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In all three posts, Kemp called Abrams “radical” and “TOO EXTREME” for Georgia. Other right-wing Facebook pages shared Kemp’s post while the far-right news site The Western Journal ran an ad promoting a write-up of the story. Conservative media figures Erick Erickson and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch also shared the images.
Since Kemp posted the photo, far-right and fake news sites have attacked Abrams while falsely claiming her campaign was affiliated with these NBPP members.
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said that if Abrams is elected, “she’ll be the most radical governor in the country.”
From the November 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
GINGRICH: You just had Black Panthers in Atlanta, for example, carrying what looked like semi-automatic weapons, for Stacey Abrams. You want a really radical America? You can get one, and she'd be -- if she wins, she'll be the most radical governor in the country, with the possible exception of [San Francisco’s] Gavin Newsom.
Breitbart News posted an article whose headline states that “armed Black Panthers lobby for” Abrams. The article earned just over 71,000 engagements on social media and was posted by a pro-gun Georgia Facebook page.
The Daily Caller criticized Abrams for attacking Kemp instead of addressing the NBPP march. In a Daily Calles write-up of the NBPP’s march, Jason Hopkins wrote that an Abrams campaign statement he received in response to questions “did not specifically address the Panthers’ march, but instead attacked Kemp.” The article amplified Kemp’s calls on Abrams to denounce the NBPP and earned over 38,000 engagements on social media. Reprints of the article by The Western Journal, BizPac Review, and The Tennessee Star earned an additional 41,000 interactions.
On the far-right news site Big League Politics, Laura Loomer falsely stated that “armed Black Panthers” were “campaigning with Stacey Abrams.” Loomer also claimed that the NBPP’s march for Stacey Abrams was “an act of racially motivated anti-white voter intimidation.”
NBPP, which was founded in 1989, is an “anti-white and antisemitic” group, according to a report on the group’s activities published by Southern Poverty Law Center. The original Black Panther Party has condemned NBPP as a “black racist hate group,” and it has also been denounced by the NAACP.
The group rose to national prominence in 2008 after a video went viral that showed two NBPP members at a polling site in Philadelphia, PA, one of whom was carrying a nightstick. The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident that ended with a default civil judgement against the armed NBPP member after the Bush administration decided to pursue civil, rather than criminal, charges against the men. Conservative media endlessly scandalized the outcome of the DOJ investigation, although a 2011 report issued by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found “that politics played no role in the handling of the New Black Panther Party case, which sparked a racially charged political fight,” according to The Washington Post.
Right-wing media still often cite the 2008 incident before Election Day. In 2016, conservative media supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump raised concerns about the NBPP to defend Trump from criticism after he suggested the 2016 election would be “rigged” by voter fraud. Conservative media frequently used extraordinarily tenuous or entirely nonexistent evidence in attempts to tie NBPP to President Barack Obama -- a similar tactic to what right-wing media figures are now trying to accomplish in the Georgia gubernatorial race.
Fox News and some of its high-profile hosts are attempting to distance themselves from President Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media, which he has famously smeared as the “enemy of the people.” Martha MacCallum, host of Fox’s The Story, told Politico that she finds Trump’s rhetoric “wrong” and “disturbing.” Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of Fox & Friends, told viewers that he wished the president would “lose” the term “enemy of the people.” Pointing to Kilmeade’s comment, a Fox spokesperson argued to Forbes that “many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative.”
These halfhearted deflections are undoubtedly an effort to avoid any blame for recent attempted violence amid calls for a boycott of the network’s advertisers. But in reality, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have directly contributed to hostility against journalists and the media by regularly launching Trumpian attacks at outlets and reporters. They dismiss media outlets as “fake news,” label the media “the enemy of the people,” vilify individual journalists, and call for the Trump administration to crack down on the free press.
Video by Miles Le
Fox’s Pete Hegseth has smeared the media as “the opposition party, the left-stream media, the legacy media, whatever you want to call them,” and argued that journalists “ continue to expose themselves because they can't hold back on their dedication to tearing down any single member of the Trump administration.”
Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that “the propaganda media” is “out to destroy Trump. That is their main purpose. They want to advance the interests of liberal Democrats and the left. Now -- they're not journalists. They’re not reporters. They’re rigid, radical left-wing ideologues.”
Hannity also said: “The alt-left propaganda media is getting worse every single day. They’re now at war with you, the American people.”
Fox guest and Daily Caller writer Stephanie Hamill said: “Some of these journalists have an agenda, and they’re pushing a globalist agenda. And so when Trump calls the media the fake news media, the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of the people when they’re not being honest.”
Frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk: “Not only are [the media] the enemy of the people, they are the enemy of the truth. Because they spread lies, and that’s why we call them the fake news.”
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs referred to planned editorials criticizing Trump’s rhetoric about the media as “anti-Trump screeds” and “coordinated national left-wing fake news.”
Dobbs argued that “the left-wing media” was aiding the Democratic Party in carrying out “a coup d'etat against President Trump.”
Fox host Laura Ingraham accused the media of “actively concealing the heinous actions” of groups like antifa “because they serve their ends.”
Fox’s Jesse Watters said the press, along with leakers, comprise “the official Democratic Party opposition.”
In response to newspapers’ condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric, Fox Business guest host Ashley Webster and Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Freeman defended Trump’s rhetoric that the media are “the enemy of the people,” pushing Trump’s ridiculous claim that his critique applies only to “fake news.”
Frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin: “The media is the opposition party. I gotta get that on a bumper sticker.”
Fox host Steve Doocy: The media want “to destroy [Trump] for the most part, because they didn’t like him. Look, nobody in the mainstream media for the most part predicted or wanted Donald Trump to win. He won, ha ha, he would go, and now, look, it’s the state of journalism today.”
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: Media coverage “enrages” the president, “and I understand why. And I think he’s probably right to be mad.”
Hannity criticized the media for being "filled with all opinion" and "kissing [Obama's] ass,” instead of holding government accountable.
Hannity dismissed claims that he was “inciting violence” by criticizing the “fake news media” for “reporting fake news almost every night”:
Lou Dobbs slammed the “national left-wing media” for covering Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ racist comment about his opponent, Andrew Gillum.
Hannity complained that media “betrayed the American people” in their coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation.
Hannity also slammed the media for covering his disastrous interview with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, calling reporters “lazy, … abusively biased echo chamber people in the fake news overpaid media.”
Fox’s Jeanine Pirro whined that coverage of Trump and Russia is “like propaganda.”
In response to a particularly vicious press conference in which Trump “launched an extraordinary denunciation” of the media, according to CNN, former Fox host Eric Bolling claimed that the room “looked like a WWE arena, with the mainstream media having fits about being called out for their unfair reporting.”
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle called the same press conference “wildly entertaining.”
While interviewing the president, Fox’s Pete Hegseth asked him which is his biggest opponent -- the Democrats, the “deep state,” or the “fake news media.”
Fox & Friends celebrated Trump’s made-up "awards" attacking media: “Excitement for President Trump's fake news awards is so off the charts.”
Dobbs smeared CNN’s Jim Acosta as “triggered” and “delicate” after Trump supporters harassed him at a rally.
Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Acosta's conduct makes him "an enemy to the American people."
Hannity argued that the president shouldn’t “do any more interviews with Lester Holt, which then is sent over their cable channel and CNN so they can rip it apart.”
Hannity also claimed that “corporate jihad” is “being waged by NBC News against President Trump,” and he went on to attack the “alt-left propaganda, destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media.”
Fox contributor Michael Goodwin attacked The New Yorker's Jane Mayer for her reporting on sexual assaults: "She's been on this rampage for 25 years.”
Fox & Friends defended Trump after he launched a sexist attack on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, saying the media had a “melt down” over the comment and arguing that Brzezinski “make[s] a living insulting” Trump.
Brian Kilmeade claimed CNN “went unhinged” after Trump posted the GIF, and Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the network has “this unremitting hostility to Donald Trump.”
Fox’s Newt Gingrich urged the administration to “close down the press room, send the reporters off. They can sit over at the Hay-Adams. They can go to Starbucks across the street. I don't care where they go.” Sean Hannity rejoiced at the idea: “The media will implode! They would not know how to deal with this.”
Gingrich argued that the White House should “suspend” CNN’s Jim Acosta “for 60 days… as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” on how they’re allowed to behave.
Gingrich claimed that if he were the president, he “would kick some of the [news] organizations out. I would flood the White House press corps with lots of people,” adding that Trump should recognize “this is a real war.”
Hannity: “As long as they keep reporting fake news, bizarre conspiracy theories, and show this bizarre fascination and paranoia about Russia, how about no more press conferences for the Hillary Clinton-colluding media?”
Hannity claimed that the president shouldn’t “do interviews with the network so they can spend hours and hours and hours tearing up every word this president says, something they'd never do to Obama. End it. He doesn't need the press.”
How Fox News helped Trump transform migrants seeking safety into a xenophobic caricature looming over the midterms
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President Donald Trump responded on Thursday morning to reports of a caravan of migrants moving through Central America toward the U.S. border by blaming Democrats for their purported “assault on our country.” The president was mimicking the commentators he was likely watching on Fox News, who urged Republicans to weaponize the caravan as an election issue ahead of next month’s midterms.
A caravan of as many as 4,000 Honduran migrants has entered Guatemala, leading Fox hosts to spend much of the week trying to stoke fears that the migrants are “heading this way” with plans “to storm our border.” None of this makes much sense -- the caravan would still need to make it through all of Guatemala and Mexico, and the Mexican government is currently deploying its own resources to stop the migrants. But because Trump’s worldview is shaped by the hours of Fox he consumes each day, that coverage is having an impact on U.S. policy -- and now, the topics of discussion in the midterm elections.
Trump entered the fray on Tuesday morning, warning that the U.S. would cut off aid to Honduras if the caravan isn’t turned back:
The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
Trump frequently spends his mornings live-tweeting Fox & Friends, and his tweet almost certainly came in response to the show's coverage of the story that day:
With Trump weighing in, the story’s coverage escalated. And on Wednesday night, Fox contributor and presidential confidant Newt Gingrich urged Republicans to make the caravan a key voting issue:
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) October 18, 2018
“I think two words are going to define the night of the 2018 election in the next three weeks,” he told Sean Hannity. “One is Kavanaugh and the other is caravan.” Claiming that “the left is eager” for the caravan to enter the United States, Gingrich argued that “the American people are going to reject ... the way they are dealing with the border, and I think those will end up being the reasons the Republicans keep the House and dramatically increase the number of senators they have.”
The next morning, Fox & Friends repeatedly urged Republicans to take Gingrich’s advice.
During the show’s lead segment, after several minutes of dire warnings about the caravan, the hosts replayed portions of Gingrich’s comment. “So it comes down to a simple question regarding the Republicans and the Democrats, because it’s clear,” said host Steve Doocy. "If you think that our southern border should be open, support the Democrat. If you think the southern border should actually be a border with security, and stopping people, and processing them accordingly, then you’ve got to vote for Republicans, the Republicans say.”
In a second segment that hour, Fox contributor and former ICE Acting Director Tom Homan said, “This caravan issue lays at the feet of the Democratic Party up on the Hill” for not closing loopholes in immigration law. “I hope the American people are paying attention because this isn’t the president’s failure, this isn’t the secretary’s failure; this is the Democrats’ failure because they know the issue and they refuse to fix it. They’re putting their political ambitions ahead of public safety, national security, and border control.”
During a third segment, Doocy said that the election is “going to come down to” voters asking each other, “Hey, did you see that story this morning on Fox & Friends about the caravan? Can you believe that the Democrats want open borders?”
And at 7 a.m., the hosts again highlighted the migrant caravan, with Doocy arguing that “these images do get the base on the Republican side interested in voting because, clearly, it's a choice. Do you want a southern border with security or not?”
The president apparently got the message. In a series of tweets beginning at 7:25 a.m., he used the caravan to attack Democrats, saying they had “led (because they want Open Borders and existing weak laws)” an “assault on our country.” He also threatened to stop "all payments” to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and said he would “call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER” if Mexico could not “stop this onslaught.”
I am watching the Democrat Party led (because they want Open Borders and existing weak laws) assault on our country by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose leaders are doing little to stop this large flow of people, INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS, from entering Mexico to U.S.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
....In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
....The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA. Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border. All Democrats fault for weak laws!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
This is not the first time Fox’s migrant coverage has triggered Trump to erupt on Twitter. In the spring, he similarly lashed out in response to Fox’s coverage of a caravan of migrants moving through Central America.
This Fox-Trump feedback loop presents a problem for journalists, as the president drives the network’s fearmongering coverage into the mainstream policy debate.
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"When they go low, we kick them” doesn’t mean to actually kick someone
Speaking to a group of Democrats in support of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Adams, former Attorney General Eric Holder riffed on Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” line from the 2016 Democratic National Convention to comment on the need for Democrats to fight back against voter suppression efforts -- a legitimate concern, especially in that state.
“Michelle always says, ‘When they go low, we go high,'” said Holder at last weekend’s event. “No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about. We’re proud as hell to be Democrats. We’re willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party.”
Just from that quote, it should be obvious that Holder wasn’t talking about physically kicking anybody, but lest someone misinterpret his comment as a call to violence, he clarified:
“Now, when I say, you know, ‘we kick ‘em,’ I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate. We don’t do anything illegal. But we’ve got to be tough and we’ve got to fight for the very things that John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, you know, all those folks gave to us. That stuff can be taken away. That’s what they want to do.”
On Wednesday’s edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, the host called Holder an “illustrious thug” after playing the context-free version of Holder’s comments.
“You know, when I think what we’ve just gone through and when I think of what Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and his family have gone through, and I think of the ignorance of the radical Dems on that committee and in that party and what they’re saying, and watching Eric Holder in Georgia, talking big like he’s some sort of street thug, I can’t imagine what it would take to infuriate, to motivate Republicans to get to the polls and take five others with them,” Dobbs said later in the program.
On Thursday’s Fox & Friends, Holder’s comments racked up a number of mentions. Yet again, the latter half of his statement, where he explicitly said that he’s not referring to committing acts of violence, was omitted.
“Wow, that's the new Democratic Party? Just start kicking people? That's the former head of the Justice Department, keep that in mind,” said co-host Ainsley Earhardt.
President Donald Trump later called in to the show. Asked about what Holder said, Trump replied, “He better be careful what he is wishing for,” adding, “That is a disgusting statement for him to make.”
He went on to call it a “dangerous statement,” saying, “They talk about us. We are exactly opposite.” He then described his rallies as “really calm and well-run and packed with people. We don't have problems at our rallies, but they used to send in -- they don't do it anymore, they haven't, they probably, maybe they will try starting again -- but they used to send in protesters, paid protesters. The Democrats and Soros and they came from all over.”
Trump’s rallies during the 2016 campaign, however, were not the peaceful utopia he described on Thursday. There’s a stark contrast between the way Fox & Friends discussed these relatively harmless comments by Holder and how the show reacted when then-candidate Trump called in on November 22, 2015, to say of one protester who claimed to have been assaulted at one of his rallies: “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
And as goes Fox News, so goes the rest of conservative media.
At RedState, Andrea Ruth wrote that “advocating physical violence … is really not the best look or direction for a party that got members worked up because people at a Trump rally chanted lock her up. … Let’s just hope no one gets hurt because they feel emboldened by Holder’s careless words,” she said, continuing the distortion.
Hot Air’s John Sexton wrote, “Of course, I think we all know what will happen the moment someone does this to Hillary or Eric Holder. Suddenly they’ll be shocked and appalled and claim they never had this in mind. They were only speaking metaphorically, etc., etc. Don’t believe it for a minute. They see what is happening out there. They know what kind of behavior they are encouraging.” In his update, he backpedalled, adding the additional comments and writing: “People on the left are pointing to this as evidence that Holder wasn’t endorsing violence or illegal behavior. Fair enough but if you read the post above you may have noticed I never said or even suggested he was recommending violence.”
Yeah, but you kind of did suggest that, John.
Violence, of course, is bad, and so is rhetoric that can incite it. But pretending that Holder meant “kick” opponents literally, that Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) “fight in the streets” comment were actually about throwing punches, or that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling on supporters to “push back” on the Trump administration was an actual instruction to shove government officials (in fairness, she did say to confront them in public, but that’s hardly inciting language), it gets harder to take these claims seriously. Surely, those framing these messages as calls to violence in media know that it’s deceptive to do so.
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Ever since the first of three women reported sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right-wing media’s message to victims of sexual violence has rung painfully clear -- if you come forward and tell your story, you’re putting yourself at risk and the establishment will circle the wagons to protect your abuser.
Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick have faced unending smear campaigns while also being summarily dismissed by those seeking to ram Kavanaugh onto the court. Conservative media have systematically overlooked the fact that Kavanaugh lied and perjured himself during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, instead propagating outlandish conspiracy theories about his accusers and questioning whether they have political motivations. Their smear campaign coalesces around one simple message of intimidation: If you tell your truth about sexual violence, it won’t disqualify your assailant from moving up in his career; instead, you’ll ruin the reputation of a good man, and a right-wing attack mob will set its sight on ruining yours as well.
Right-wing media’s radical and insulting insistence that a history of sexual assault doesn’t disqualify a man from sitting on the Supreme Court is perhaps the most honest confession in their coverage of allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh. They are telling survivors that coming forward is, as Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) put it, but a “hiccup” on the way to their assailant getting a promotion.
Perhaps the most shameless example of conservatives telling on themselves is an article published in The Federalist titled, “Why Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Confirmed To The Supreme Court Even If He’s Guilty.” An anonymous author argues “the actual impact” of Kavanaugh’s alleged history of sexual violence would likely be irrelevant to his “behavior as a Supreme Court justice.” The article goes on to say that “the stakes” of confirming Kavanaugh “are even higher” now than they were before, noting that if he fails to get on the court, “every Supreme Court nomination henceforth will be derailed by mere allegation.”
For its part, Fox News has also made clear that Ford’s report should not get in the way of Kavanaugh’s promotion. This is not a surprise, considering that the network functions as a mouthpiece for the White House communications team led by disgraced former Fox executive Bill Shine, who was forced out due to his role in the culture of sexual harassment that prevailed under Roger Ailes. Here are some of the most offensive takes from the network’s Kavanaugh coverage:
In the effort to rehabilitate Brett Kavanaugh’s image, right-wing media have characterized the reports as nothing more than smears of a good and innocent man. Some have bizarrely admitted they believe Christine Ford but they don’t believe what she says Kavanaugh did to her. They’ve also deflected from the women’s stories by mentioning that Kavanaugh goes to church and volunteers and coaches his daughters’ basketball team:
According to some right-wing pundits, even listening to victims is a wholesale attack on men. During her daily radio show, Laura Ingraham said she wanted to “focus on men for a moment” because “this could happen to any of you.” Not to be outdone by his peers, Tucker Carlson used the stories of sexual assault survivors to continues his ongoing white nationalist campaign, categorizing allegations against Kavanaugh as an attack on all white people and men and arguing that Democrats’ willingness to listen to Ford demonstrates a sexism that’s similar to racism. He also called Kavanaugh a “folk hero” to the “unfairly maligned.”
When conservative media figures portray a sexual assault report as a politically motivated smear of a decent family man, they are telling victims the damage wrought by the violence they experienced is unimportant and that speaking about it is wrong.
The conservative victim-blaming campaign discourages survivors from speaking up through the direct threat of a never-ending character assassination and harassment campaign. The results of this tactic have been illustrated by the fact that Ford has had to go into hiding, separately from her children, for her family’s safety. Here are some examples of right-wing media attacking Ford’s character:
And while Twitter is a general cesspool of conspiracy theories and smears against sexual assault survivors, no individual has put more into this effort than conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who called the confirmation process “the Left’s PizzaGate” and said that the Democrats were “willing to destroy an innocent man so they can keep killing kids.”
Right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have been working overtime to send a clear message to survivors of sexual violence: It’s better for us if you stay quiet. The campaign against Kavanaugh’s accusers reinforces what women already know -- that sexual violence is about power, and that when backed into a corner, power brokers will regroup and lash out at its challengers.
Millions of people watch Fox News every day. Many of them are undoubtedly survivors of sexual violence themselves. While Fox News personalities get rich smearing victims in an effort to install Kavanaugh into power no matter his past behavior or the fact that he repeatedly lied to Congress, they’re saying to their viewers, “We don’t care about you, we don’t believe you, and you should shut up and keep your experiences to yourself.” Right-wing media outlets are sustained by their commitment to punching down, even if that means launching an attack on half of the world’s population to save the career of one man. Only through the power of testimony and solidarity can survivors overcome the system that seeks to silence us.
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