Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

››› ››› NINA MAST

As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Trump announced first executive order 

Federal judges issued stays to protect travelers

Trump fired acting attorney general for not defending ban

Washington District Court Judge blocked order nationwide

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals retained ruling

Federal judge issued preliminary injunction against ban

Trump announced plan for new order

Trump signed revised order

Hawaii sued for restraining order against ban

Federal judge extended Hawaii’s ruling

Another federal judge issued an injunction against revised ban

Hawaii judge extended order

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments

Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals maintained hold on ban

Trump used London terror attack to justify ban

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals continued to block revised ban

Trump announced first executive order

January 27, 2017: Trump announced an executive order barring US entry for refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations. President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days and those from Syria indefinitely. The order also called for a four-month pause on the admission of all refugees to the United States and for a review of the Visa Interview Waiver Program.

Right-wing media praised order

January 27, 2017: Right-wing media praised the executive order, wrongly blaming Obama. Fox News’ Eric Bolling called the order “fantastic” and said it had “some really logical things” in it. Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that “there’s a lot of good facts to support [Trump’s] theory” that the executive order will benefit U.S. national security interests and later contended that refugees “don’t have rights.” Fox’s Sean Hannity defended Trump, asking critics, “Why are you willing to gamble with American lives?” Right-wing media also wrongly cited former President Barack Obama to justify the order, claiming that the basis for Trump’s order was codified during the previous administration. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took to Fox’s Justice With Judge Jeanine to brag that he helped craft the ban, and Fox & Friends hosted the leader of an anti-Muslim hate group to defend the ban.

Mainstream media reported mass protests, confusion, and expert contentions that ban is illegal 

January 28-30, 2017: Mainstream media reported mass protests, confusion at airports nationwide, and dismay from legal experts and activists. CNN reported confusion and protests at airports in Portland, OR; New York City; Virginia; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA; Denver, CO; and Dallas, TX, and reported that further protests were planned for Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, D.C. USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post also reported on the protests. Time magazine reported that some New York Muslims felt encouraged by the protests, and The New York Times reported that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City protested the order by rehanging work of artists from Muslim-majority nations impacted by the ban. The Atlantic published a photo series of protests from around the country.

January 29-30, 2017: Mainstream media also consulted experts and advocates to comment on the Muslim ban. On CNN, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero explained why the order was illegal and unconstitutional, the International Refugee Assistance Project’s deputy legal director called the order “clearly a ban that's discriminating against Muslim people,” and Muslim leaders expressed concern about the ban felt in their communities. Numerous other media figures and legal experts had previously criticized Trump’s plan to enact a Muslim ban and argued that it would play into ISIS’ hands.

Federal judges issued stays to protect travelers

January 28-February 1, 2017: Federal judges in four states issued emergency stays to protect travelers in transit. Federal courts in Washington and Virginia issued stays preventing authorities from sending detained travelers back to their home countries. New York filed a class-action lawsuit, and Massachusetts issued a separate temporary restraining order in defense of two lawful permanent residents, as well as joined the states of Washington, New York, and Virginia in a federal lawsuit against the executive order brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Urban Justice Center, and others.

Right-wing media claimed it’s not a ban

January 30, 2017: Right-wing media figures denied that the ban was a ban while white nationalists praised it. Despite having previously acknowledged that the order was considered a “Muslim ban,” Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy called the idea “false.” Fox contributor and former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed that “the people who are screaming the loudest” in opposition to Trump’s executive order and claiming it constitutes a Muslim ban are “lying about it,” adding, “There isn’t a Muslim ban.” White nationalist media figures reported feeling “ecstatic joy” about the ban.

Trump fired acting attorney general for not defending ban

January 30, 2017: Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend the ban. Three days after Trump issued the ban, Yates wrote in a letter to the Justice Department that she was “not convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Later that evening, Yates was removed from her position.

Mainstream media reported on the firing

January 30-January 31: Mainstream media noted the unusual nature of the move and provided context on the ban’s consequences. The New York Times called Yates’ letter a “remarkable rebuke” that laid bare a “deep divide” within the Justice Department. The Washington Post called the statement from the White House claiming that she “betrayed the Department of Justice” “unnecessarily incendiary language” and said the firing is “yet another example of how Trump is fundamentally different from the many people who have preceded him as president.” CNN hosted a refugee to talk about his experience in America after fleeing Syria.

Right-wing media defended the firing

January 31- February 3, 2017: Right-wing media defended the firing and urged Trump to continue purging career bureaucrats. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy and legal analyst Andrew Napolitano agreed that Yates was “partisan” and that “if she can’t do what the president needs to have done … she has to be fired.” Fox’s Mike Huckabee called for Trump to “clean up this total mess,” while radio host Laura Ingraham said there must be a “cleanout in every agency." Breitbart’s Joel Pollak declared there to be a “coup of the bureaucrats,” adding, “They must go.”

Washington District Court Judge blocked order nationwide

February 3, 2017: US District Court Judge James Robart temporarily blocked the executive order nationwide. In his ruling, Judge James Robart found that the states that filed motion for a temporary restraining order demonstrated “immediate and irreparable injury” as a result of the executive order. The Justice Department appealed Robart’s ruling, asking the 9th Circuit to reinstate the ban, but the request was denied.

Right-wing media criticized the ruling

February 6-7, 2017: Right-wing media figures criticized the ruling and defended the debunked national security rationale for the ban. Fox’s Greg Gutfeld lamented that “we’re entering an era where security is now being viewed as mean-spirited.” Trump aide and frequent Fox contributor Sebastian Gorka claimed the Muslim ban is “about the national security of all Americans” and “has nothing to do with which god you pray to.”

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals retained ruling

February 9, 2017: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Robart’s ruling after the US government requested the ban be reinstated. The 9th Circuit, after rejecting the government’s emergency request to resume the ban, agreed to hear arguments from both sides on whether to lift the nationwide restraining order. Two days later, a three-judge panel ruled against reinstating the ban and upheld Robart’s injunction, saying that the government failed to provide evidence that travelers subject to the ban posed a credible threat.

Right-wing media criticized judge, defended Trump

February 9-12, 2017: Right-wing media responded to the decision with outrage against the 9th Circuit, criticism of Judge Robart, and defense of Trump. On Twitter, Sean Hannity called the move “part of the alt radical left’s plan to undermine” Trump. The American Spectator’s Matthew Vadum called the 9th Circuit “pro-terrorist” and claimed it “hates America.” Radio host Mark Levin called the ruling “judicial tyranny.” On cable news, Fox host Brian Kilmeade echoed Trump, saying, “if something [terror-related] happens” now, “it's on the courts,” and Fox host Eric Bolling suggested Trump defy the ruling. Fox News also hosted White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who falsely claimed that the president’s executive authority on immigration is “beyond question” and that the 9th Circuit was “overreaching” in its ruling against the ban. Miller later attacked Judge Robart, saying, “If something [terror-related] happens, blame him and the court system.” Rush Limbaugh claimed that “people support Trump's efforts here in this executive order, and that they're not happy with Judge Robart.”

Federal judge issued preliminary injunction against ban

February 14, 2017: Federal judge in Virginia Eastern District Court issued preliminary injunction against the ban. Judge Leonie Brinkema’s decision in a suit originally filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center on behalf of two Yemeni brothers found that the order probably violated the First and Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives the president broad but reviewable powers to suspend entry of noncitizens to the United States. The brothers’ attorney noted that the Virginia decision was significant because a preliminary injunction requires a greater burden of proof than a temporary restraining order like the one issued in Washington.

Mainstream media quoted legal experts, discussed implications

February 10-14, 2017: Mainstream cable news hosted legal experts and affected individuals to explain the recent court decisions and the ban’s implications. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that what the 9th Circuit showed, above all else, is that “the president is not above the law.” On MSNBC, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe called the order “clearly a violation of the establishment clause.” CBS Evening News invited Canadian Muslims to talk about the discrimination they faced at the U.S. border as a result of the ban.

Trump announced plan for new order

February 16, 2017: Trump announced his plan to issue a new order that would be “very much tailored” to the 9th Circuit Court ruling that blocked his first ban. During a news conference, Trump vowed to roll out a new immigration order, saying, “The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision” -- a reference to the 9th Circuit ruling.

Mainstream media reported on memos undermining ban

February 24-March 3, 2017: Mainstream media reported on two Department of Homeland Security memos that weaken the security rationale for Trump’s Muslim ban. According to a draft Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document obtained by The Associated Press on February 24, citizenship was an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats to the United States, and “relatively few” citizens from the countries impacted by the Muslim ban have been implicated in terrorism-related activities. A week later, another DHS document obtained by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show found that most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists do not become radicalized until several years after they begin living in the U.S.

Trump signed revised order

March 6, 2017: Trump signed a revised executive order banning immigration from six majority-Muslim nations. The new order issued by Trump exempted Iraq -- which was a targeted country in the first order -- lifted the indefinite ban on Syrian nationals, and removed language that established a preference for Christians over Muslims fleeing war-torn Middle Eastern countries.

Right-wing media preferred earlier version

March 7, 2017: Right-wing media responded with nostalgia for the earlier version of the ban. Conservative journalist Raymond Arroyo called the omission of language establishing a preference for Christians to come to the U.S. “a challenge for a lot of people.” Fox’s Brian Kilmeade agreed and expressed concern that the new ban included no “caveat” for Christians.

Hawaii sued for restraining order against ban

March 7, 2017: Attorneys for the District Court of Hawaii filed a lawsuit against the new ban, asking federal judges to issue a temporary restraining order against it. Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin filed a lawsuit against the new ban. According to the suit, two sections of Trump’s order were in violation of the Constitution and federal law. It specifically noted that the order violated the establishment clause of the Constitution, damaged Hawaii’s economy and educational institutions, and amounted to discrimination against Hawaii’s citizens, many of whom are foreign-born. 

Federal judge extended Hawaii’s ruling

March 15, 2017: Federal judge extended Hawaii’s ruling, temporarily blocking the revised executive order nationwide. After hearing the U.S. government’s legal challenge to Hawaii’s March 7 temporary restraining order, US. District Court for the State of Hawaii Judge Derrick Watson ordered a nationwide suspension of the ban hours before the temporary restraining order was set to expire. Watson found that the new executive order violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act, and he specifically put on hold the provisions of the order suspending refugee admissions.

Pro-Trump media claimed Obama was behind decision

March 16, 2017: Pro-Trump and “alt-right” media outlets manufactured a conspiracy theory that Obama was secretly behind the decision. After it was reported that Obama was visiting his home state of Hawaii on the same day the travel ban freeze was issued, pro-Trump media ran with a Reddit conspiracy theory that Watson would have been “accessible” to Obama. Hannity later promoted the conspiracy theory of Watson-Obama collusion on his radio show, and Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a tweet that made the same allegation.

Another federal judge issued an injunction against revised ban

March 16, 2017: Second federal judge issued an injunction against the revised ban, specifically the section banning immigration from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. U.S District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland cited Trump’s presidential campaign statements in his ruling that the ban likely violated the Constitution. The ruling was considered reinforcement to the Hawaii ruling as it added a second appeals court obstacle for the government.

Right-wing media fearmongered about terrorism

March 16-17, 2017: Right-wing media responded by fearmongering about the threat of terrorism from Muslim-majority countries. Fox’s Sean Hannity responded to the judges’ decisions by claiming that “activist judges” who ruled against the ban are putting American lives “literally in jeopardy.” The next day, Trump retweeted a March 15 Fox & Friends segment that baselessly claimed that “jihadis [are] using religious visa to enter US.”

Hawaii judge extended order

March 29, 2017: Watson extended his order, indefinitely blocking the revised ban from going into effect. Watson extended his order to block Trump’s revised ban after he found that it still discriminated against Muslims and hurt Hawaii’s tourist-oriented economy. The state had asked for the extension to protect the constitutional rights of American Muslims until its lawsuit was resolved.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments

May 15, 2017: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Trump’s revised travel ban. During the 9th Circuit’s hearing on Trump’s revised travel ban, a three-judge panel (different from the one that ruled on his original order) focused particularly on the extent to which the court should hold Trump’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric against him. 

Fox criticized Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, defended ban

May 8 and 15, 2017: Fox analyst criticized U.S. courts to defend Trump’s Muslim ban. Fox’s Andrew Napolitano claimed that it was “exquisitely unfair” for the courts to consider Trump’s campaign statements in their decisions. A week later, he lied by omission to defend the ban and claimed that the courts would consider only Trump’s campaign statements about Muslims and not statements that he and his team made since he took office. 

Fox exploited terror attack to justify ban

May 23, 2017: Fox News figures exploited Manchester terror attack by a UK native to justify Trump’s Muslim ban. After ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing of Manchester Arena, an attack that was committed by a Manchester native, frequent Fox guest Jay Sekulow asked, “Does anybody want to argue tonight that we shouldn’t have an executive order restricting who’s coming into the country?” Host Brian Kilmeade said Trump’s Muslim ban “seems almost logical” after the attack, and host Shannon Bream brought up the travel ban in a conversation about the attack to imply a correlation. But as the attacker was a Manchester native, he would not have been stopped by the proposed U.S.-style travel ban. When Bolling pointed out that the attacker was the son of Libyan refugees in order to advocate for Trump’s ban, his co-panelist reminded him that “there’s really no way to vet” someone who “doesn't exist.”

Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals maintained hold on ban

May 25, 2017: 4th Circuit Appeals Court ruled to keep travel ban on hold. On May 8, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump. Two weeks later, the court ruled to keep the ban on hold after finding that it violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause, concluding that the revised order’s “primary purpose is to exclude persons from the United States on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

Trump used London terror attack to justify ban

June 5, 2017: After London terror attack, Trump tweeted that “we need” a “TRAVEL BAN” and admitted that he wished the Justice Department had “stayed with the original” order.

[Twitter, 6/5/17]

[Twitter, 6/5/17]

Right-wing media defended Trump’s tweets

June 5, 2017: Right-wing media defended Trump’s tweets. Frequent Fox News guest Michelle Malkin, who previously contended that refugees “are exploiting their so-called political and economic persecution status” for “welfare,” claimed on Fox & Friends that Western societies allowing Muslims to enter is “suicide,” when co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked why “liberals” are “so upset with the president's tweets about speeding up the process with the Supreme Court.”

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals continued to block revised ban

June 12, 2017: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld injunction blocking revised travel ban. A unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that the travel ban was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, largely affirming Watson’s March decision. The judges also cited Trump’s tweet that “we need a TRAVEL BAN,” and the White House press secretary’s confirmation that the president’s tweets are considered official statements, as evidence of the ban’s intent.

Right-wing media figures criticized the 9th Circuit

June 12, 2017: Right-wing media figures criticized the 9th Circuit. Right-wing radio host Michael Savage called the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals a “psychopathic left-wing” court of “schlemiels” that wants “more terrorists in this country” and concluded that “Trump should go ahead and break up the 9th Circuit into two or three courts.” Fox’s Jeanine Pirro called the court “political” and claimed without evidence that the ruling violated “fundamental contract law.”

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