Update (2/8/24): Sliwa told The Associated Press that he had believed the man was a migrant because he was “speaking Spanish”:
In an interview with The Associated Press, Sliwa said he had believed the man was a migrant because he was “speaking Spanish” and because other Guardian Angels had encountered him with other Spanish speakers on previous patrols.
“He was put down so he wouldn’t hurt himself or anyone else,” Sliwa said.
During a live interview with New York City-based patrol group founder Curtis Sliwa on February 6, Fox News host Sean Hannity directed his cameraperson to film Sliwa’s “Guardian Angels” engaged in a physical altercation with an unidentified individual in Times Square.
Hannity had hosted Sliwa — who had a week prior promised his group would “deal” with the migrant crime crisis and argued police should be using “nightsticks” against migrants and should “hit them in the shins, hit them in their kneecaps” — to falsely attack New York City’s latest attempt to streamline aid to migrants.
In the middle of the interview, members of the patrol group who were standing around Sliwa walked off camera, and Sliwa pointed and announced, “Our guys have just taken down one of the migrant guys right here on the corner, 42nd and 7th."
As Sliwa exclaimed that “they’ve taken over,” Hannity directed his cameraperson to film the group, showing Sliwa’s members surrounding an unidentified individual on the street and appearing to bring the individual to the ground. Hannity must have also been uncomfortable with the scene unfolding, because he quickly cut away and transitioned to blaming Vice President Kamala Harris for the border crisis.
Later in the show, Hannity returned to Sliwa, who claimed, without evidence, that the individual “had been shoplifting first, the Guardian Angels spotted him, stopped him, he resisted” and boasted that the individual's “mother back in Venezuela felt the vibrations.”
Without pushback from Hannity, Sliwa bragged that the individual was “sucking concrete” and that “cops scraped him off the asphalt — he’s on his way to jail.” He complained that “these illegals think they own this street, they think they rule the night” but promised that his group, unlike the police, was not going to be “hands off” with migrants and would “liberate Times Square from them."
In the day since the incident, New York Police Department officials have contradicted Sliwa’s claims that the individual was a migrant and shoplifting in a statement to CNN.
But the person tackled by the group was neither a migrant nor arrested for shoplifting as Sliwa had claimed, New York Police Department officials confirmed to CNN.
“On Tuesday February 6 at 21:33 police responded to a 911 call for a ‘disorderly male,’” police said in a statement. “Upon arrival officers were informed that the male had repeatedly attempted to interfere with and disrupt a live interview. The male was issued a summons for disorderly conduct.”
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.
Even the New York Post, which exists under Fox Corp.’s sister organization, News Corp., disputed Sliwa’s claims, reporting a statement from a New York Police Department spokesperson.
The NYPD, however, had a very different take on the drama.
Officers responded to a 911 call about “a disorderly male,” a police spokesperson told The Post, with no mention of it being either a migrant or a shoplifter.
“Upon arrival officers observed a male being detained by bystanders,” the spokesperson said.
“Officers were informed that the male had repeatedly attempted to interfere with and disrupt a live television interview. The male was issued a summons for disorderly conduct."
The statement from police to the Post did not stop Fox’s Dana Perino, anchor of the “straight news” show America’s Newsroom, from perpetuating the unsubstantiated narrative.
“The migrant crisis was on full display on Hannity last night live. Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels roughing up a migrant during his live interview in Times Square,” she teased.
When the show returned from commercial, Perino again claimed that the Guardian Angels had “tackled a migrant from Venezuela” and cited the group’s claim that the individual was “shoplifting.”
She noted that “others say the guy was just trying to disrupt the interview,” but she failed to note that that perspective came directly from the NYPD’s statement. After Perino noted the NYPD made “no mention” of whether “the man was a migrant or shoplifter” to the New York Post, she instructed her audience that “you got to watch Hannity to know what's going on.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul responded to the incident on CNN, saying, “I reject the premise that anyone can take the law into their own hands. Then we have chaos. This is not the Wild West. This is New York state.”
Fox News' rush to elevate Sliwa’s shaky claims in order to demonize migrants is unsurprising. The network has been rallying behind GOP operatives attempting to weaponize the humanitarian crisis at the border as a political cudgel against President Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential election.