Right-wing media are misrepresenting a quote calling for comprehensive immigration reform from presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), saying she wants to give Social Security benefits to undocumented immigrants. In fact, Gillibrand was calling for comprehensive immigration reform that includes incorporating undocumented immigrants in the social safety net.
As Fox itself reported, Gillibrand said during a campaign event, “If you are in this country now, you must have the right to pay into Social Security, to pay your taxes, to pay into your local school system, and to have a pathway to citizenship.” Undocumented immigrants already pay billions of dollars in taxes, including Social Security; Gillibrand appears to have been calling for immigration reform that would both resolve the problem of legal status for immigrants who are already here and ensure people pay into and receive benefits from social programs.
Various right-wing media publications have distorted what Gillibrand said, implying that she just called for Social Security benefits to be given to undocumented immigrants. Fox News has also joined in; while Fox played the full clip, the hosts repeatedly characterized the comments as Gillibrand “say[ing] illegals must have the right to Social Security.” On Hannity, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee sarcastically said, “Let’s not only give them Grandma’s Social Security, let’s toss in a car and maybe rent for a nice home!” The panel also included conservative radio host Larry Elder, who accused Democrats of “putting the welcome carpet down there … in pursuit of the Hispanic vote.” Fox & Friends pushed the story multiple times, including by inviting on conservative radio host Mark Steyn, who called it the “abolition of citizenship,” and Huckabee again, who said that he “double dog dare[s] her to go to an AARP meeting and get up and say we’re going to freeze your Social Security … because we’re going to take it from your grandma and you and we're going to give it to people who are here illegally.”
Later, one of Fox News’ “straight news” programs, America’s Newsroom, also reported on the quote by saying that “Gillibrand proposes Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants.”
From the March 21 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
JEDEDIAH BILA (CO-HOST): Democrats like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is running for president, comes out and says illegals must have the right to --
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Social Security.
BILA: Social Security. Yup, Social Security. Take a listen.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): We have no idea who they are letting out. But we know this, there’s a whole bunch of people here in this country that want to give them immediate access to our social system and now they want to give them retirement. It's insane.
STEVE DOOCY: Well think about it, right now if you are in the country legally, we do provide health care when you go to the hospital and you need health care. And there are various state programs as well. So now in addition to health care, a retirement program, which, how many times have we heard in the last 20 years is on the verge of collapse? So, once again, that is something she is suggesting out on the trail.