Update 2/9/24: On Thursday evening, Hannity issued a correction, clarifying that the man Sliwa’s group assaulted on camera live during his Tuesday night broadcast was neither a recent migrant nor had been charged with shoplifting.
Fox News has failed to adequately update its viewers after members of the “Guardian Angels” led by right-wing activist Curtis Sliwa assaulted a New Yorker on-camera after mistaking the man for a migrant and shoplifter. The incident occurred live on Sean Hannity’s prime-time show Tuesday evening, and as of Thursday afternoon Fox News has yet to fully correct the record despite media reports and official statements by the authorities contradicting the network’s coverage.
Following the incident, Fox News said in a statement to The New York Times that “the situation took place during a live television broadcast” and that the network had “updated its audience as more information became available from the N.Y.P.D.”
In fact, Hannity did not address the topic at all during his Wednesday broadcast, and Fox News’ only mention of the event perpetuated two central falsehoods from the initial airing.
In the original segment, Hannity interviewed Sliwa on location in Times Square in Manhattan, providing the Guardian Angels founder with an opportunity to spread his anti-migrant message. During the interview, Sliwa claimed his group had “just taken down one of the migrant guys right here on the corner, 42nd and 7th,” at which point Hannity’s cameraperson filmed the violent altercation.
Later in the broadcast, Hannity returned to Sliwa, who claimed without evidence that the man “had been shoplifting first.” Hannity didn’t challenge any of Sliwa’s claims, an especially irresponsible oversight given that the guest has admitted to faking at least six crimes for publicity early in his group’s existence.
New York City officials later told CNN that the man was not a newly arrived migrant nor had he been caught shoplifting:
A law enforcement official told CNN’s Mark Morales the man was not a recent migrant. Instead, he was a 23-year-old from the Bronx who moved to the US when he was 10 years old. The man had attempted to get Sliwa’s attention while he was on the air Tuesday night, when the group confronted him, the official said.
The New York Post — which, like Fox News, is part of the Murdoch media empire — reported the same, noting that police “had a very different take on the drama” than Sliwa’s group.
Despite this new reporting, Fox News’ Dana Perino repeated the false information Wednesday morning, saying that Sliwa’s vigilantes had “tackled a migrant from Venezuela” and repeated the claim the man had been “shoplifting.” Perino acknowledged that “others say the guy was just trying to disrupt the interview,” but failed to inform viewers that that information came directly from the New York Police Department. Fox News’ write-up of the Hannity segment now includes the NYPD’s statement contradicting Sliwa’s assertions.
Sliwa subsequently told The Associated Press that his group believed the man was a recent migrant because they’d heard him “speaking Spanish,” adding, “He was put down so he wouldn’t hurt himself or anyone else.”
As has been pointed out endlessly, migrants tend to commit crimes at lower rates than people born in the United States. Similarly, the myth that migration is a net drain on the U.S. economy was dealt a serious blow on Wednesday, when the Congressional Budget Office announced that high levels of recent arrivals will contribute to an estimated increase of $7 trillion in gross domestic product over 10 years. But these facts run counter to Fox’s nativist messaging, so they are essentially absent from the network’s coverage.
Instead, Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have recently ramped up their demonization of migrants, a frequent pattern that emerges during election years. Sliwa’s blatant racism — equating “speaking Spanish” or being a migrant with criminality — is only a more vulgar manifestation of the xenophobia undergirding the entire conservative media ecosystem.