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  • An appearance by an anti-immigrant hate group on Fox & Friends inspired a Trump morning tweet

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s February 23 tweet about MS-13 came minutes after Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy spoke to Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its ties to white nationalists. Fox & Friends then reported on Trump’s tweet, hyping his misguided policies to combat the gang and demonstrating the disturbing feedback loop between the president and his favorite morning show.

    Vaughan appeared on Fox to tout her latest study that attempted to link the “resurgence” of MS-13 to U.S. immigration policies:

    Less than eight minutes after the interview ended, Trump tweeted, “MS-13 gang members are being removed by our Great ICE and Border Patrol Agents by the thousands, but these killers come back in from El Salvador, and through Mexico, like water. El Salvador just takes our money, and Mexico must help MORE with this problem. We need The Wall!”

    The Fox & Friends hosts then took the opportunity to reiterate their claims about MS-13 and undocumented immigrants and praise Trump’s policies, which co-host Pete Hegseth called “common sense.” But experts say the Trump administration policies are counterintuitive to combatting the gang.

  • Fox News reported that a border patrol agent was murdered. It turns out they were wrong.

    Fox ran with the rumor that Rogelio Martinez was killed by undocumented immigrants. The FBI has ruled out that possibility.

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In November, Fox News zealously and repeatedly reported that Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez’s death was a murder committed by undocumented immigrants along the US-Mexico border, despite the fact that a local sheriff said that “evidence gathered at the scene does not suggest an assault.” Yesterday, the FBI also announced that it has found no evidence of an attack.

    Officials from the National Border Patrol Council labor union, many of whom have made their anti-immigrant views quite clear, told reporters that Martinez and his partner were ambushed by immigrants along the border, a claim that contradicted medical evidence and other accounts of the incident that suggested it was an accident. Fox News took the union officials’ account as fact, reporting that the “vicious attack” vindicated President Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies. Fox co-host Sandra Smith reported the incident as an "apparent ambush," and host Tucker Carlson claimed that Martinez was “attacked at the border in the most gruesome possible way." At one point, Smith briefly acknowledged the possibility that Martinez’s death was the result of a deadly accident, but others on the network continued to report that it was a homicide, with Happening Now co-host Julie Banderas claiming, "a killer killed" and beat Martinez "by rocks."

    In the past, Fox has covered stories involving immigrants in ways that depict them as criminals without reporting all of the facts. Then, when more facts are revealed that refute the network’s reporting, the full context is only mentioned in a brief whisper, if at all. In Martinez’s case, The Washington Post reported that the FBI has released its findings and “has found no evidence of a homicide, despite mobilizing significant resources involving 37 field offices to investigate Martinez’s death.” Predictably, only Smith briefly mentioned the news on February 8; the network has not yet issued a correction for its deceptive reporting:

    SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): New questions surrounding the November death of a U.S. Border agent. The FBI now says there's no evidence suggesting the agent and his partner were attacked. Rogelio Martinez died from severe head wounds hours after the two men were discovered lying in a drain near the Texas-Mexico border. The agents had been responding to reports of unknown activity. Martinez's partner suffered head injuries and says he can't remember what happened. The FBI says it will continue to investigate.

  • Sebastian Gorka was hired by a far-right media outlet. He still works for Fox News.

    Gorka is a conspiratorial bigot and frequent Hannity guest

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sebastian Gorka, former Trump aide, recently-hired Fox News strategist, and frequent Hannity guest, has been hired by Canadian far-right media outlet Rebel media. Gorka is just the latest bigoted commentator to be hired by a network equally known for its hateful anti-Muslim commentary and sympathy for white supremacists. He’s also still employed by Fox News.

    On February 1, Rebel media promoted the first episode of Gorka’s new and recurring segment for the network, “The Gorka Briefing.” In the video, Gorka claimed to “untangle” various narratives about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, something he does regularly as a guest on Fox News. Just last night, Gorka appeared on Fox show Hannity, and helped host Sean Hannity further his long-standing campaign against the validity of the Russia probe when he accused former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia and the media of advancing a “false” narrative about the issue. Since August 2017, Gorka has appeared on Hannity 46 times, making him one of Hannity’s three most frequent guests, according to a Media Matters analysis.

    Gorka also briefly advised pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Coalition after he left the White House and, as The Daily Beast reported last night, was paid $40,000 for his work. The MAGA Coalition is a political group founded by “right-wing conspiracy theorists,” and was engaged in spreading the almost deadly “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that falsely accused members of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign of being part of a pedophilia ring operating out of a pizza parlor.

    Aside from Gorka’s penchant for conspiracy theories, he boasts a long history of bigoted and incendiary rhetoric, aimed at Muslims in particular, and has apparent ties to a Hungarian Nazi-allied group called Vitézi Rend. He was also reportedly fired from the FBI for his “over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric” and was apparently ousted from his role in the Trump administration for partly the same reason.

    With his extreme anti-Muslim views and reported ties to a Nazi-allied group, Gorka may be a perfect match for Rebel media, an outlet that once employed someone who published a “satirical video” titled “Ten Things I Hate About Jews.” After the Canadian outlet lost several other high-profile contributors in the wake of its sympathetic coverage of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, it is now seeking to re-establish its brand and further expand its global platform of anti-Muslim ideology.

    In addition to hiring Gorka, the outlet recently hired former Daily Mail columnist turned far-right agitator Katie Hopkins. Most recently, Hopkins was apparently banned from South Africa for fomenting racial hatred while in the country reporting for The Rebel. But she is perhaps best known for her shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Hopkins once called for the use of “gunships to stop migrants,” actively supported a mission to disrupt humanitarian rescues of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, and floated the idea on Fox News of putting Muslims in internment camps in the wake of the Manchester terror attack.

    Rebel media is also slated to hire extreme “Muslim reform” activist Raheel Raza, who has cheered Trump’s Muslim ban, is affiliated with SPLC-designated anti-Muslim hate groups ACT for America and The Clarion Project, and serves as a senior fellow for The Gatestone Institute, whose founder is a major funder of anti-Muslim activism.

    Despite Gorka’s long history of bigotry and, now, open affiliation with a far-right outlet, one of America’s top cable networks still considers him a trusted "strategist." Gorka’s joint employment is just the latest evidence that Fox News has no interest in distancing itself from the network’s most extreme voices.

  • Laura Ingraham and John Lott tout Lott's debunked study attacking undocumented immigrants

    Lott regularly uses flawed research methods to push his right-wing agenda; this latest study is no exception

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham hosted John Lott, president of the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center, to defend his report alleging that undocumented immigrants in Arizona commit more crimes -- and more dangerous crimes -- than other Arizonans. But the report, which contradicts virtually every other study, failed to accurately distinguish between undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents and ignored other factors that likely skewed the results.

    Lott’s report, published January 30 and which purported to “separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents,” claimed that “undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans.” The report also claimed, that “There are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants.” In response, the libertarian think tank Cato Institute pointed out that the dataset Lott used in fact “does not allow him or anybody else to identify illegal immigrants” (emphasis original). According to Cato immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh, Lott “erroneously assumed” that the data he used, from a category “called ‘non-US citizen and deportable,’ only counted illegal immigrants.” Put another way, he “mistakenly chose a variable that combines an unknown number of legal immigrants with an unknown number of illegal immigrants.”

    Latino Decision’s Jose Marichal also noted that Lott’s findings contradict “the academic consensus that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than the general population.”

    On February 6, Ingraham gave Lott a platform to respond to criticisms of his report. He disagreed with Cato’s assertion that he had mistakenly attributed crimes of legal permanent residents to undocumented immigrants, arguing that he used “pre-sentencing reports that” determine “what their citizenship status is.” However, there is no mention of “pre-sentencing reports” in Lott’s study, and he has demonstrated in the past that he has no qualms about pushing blatant lies to support his research. Lott suspiciously ignored that aspect of Cato’s criticism in his written response.

    Lott also claimed that other studies that contradict his findings on this issue are unreliable because, he argued, they “completely mix together legal and illegal immigrants, or they do surveys.” But nearly every reliable study that has examined the crime rate of immigrant populations, undocumented and otherwise, has consistently found that immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S.-born citizens; none of these studies relied solely on surveys.

    Lott regularly publishes skewed research that supports his conservative agenda, particularly on gun issues. Nonetheless, Fox and other right-wing media outlets treat him as a legitimate figure, and as result, public institutions occasionally have embraced his error-filled work. According to Will Gaona, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona chapter, Lott is currently authoring a publicly-funded report for Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC).

    Lott published his flawed report amid immigration negotiations in Congress that will decide the fate of millions of immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. since childhood. With the help of his conservative media echo chamber, Lott may be aiding the implementation of public policies that are not based in reality.

  • Fox is spinning a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as a "major concession." It's not.

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Over the past week, Fox hosts and pundits have insisted that the White House gave a “major concession” by including a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its immigration proposal, ignoring the draconian aspects of the plan.

    On the January 27 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Pete Hegseth exclaimed, “For conservatives, citizenship and 1.8 [million] DACA recipients is a lot more than people expected this White House to give … They made that concession out of the gate.” Tucker Carlson echoed that sentiment on his show, claiming that “the White House’s proposed immigration deal gives a major concession to Democrats: amnesty.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has pushed the “huge concession” line multiple times. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen was the latest to make the misleading claim on the January 31 edition of America’s Newsroom:

    First off, the proposal grants the Trump administration $25 billion for a border wall, a number that has been criticized as “a bloated increase from the $18 billion the White House called for just at the start of the year.”

    And as the libertarian think tank Cato Institute points out, “The new plan [cuts] the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent or half a million immigrants annually—the largest policy-driven legal immigration cut since the 1920s.”

    The proposal also pits “immigrants against one another” as it limits the scope of family reunification policies, preventing immigrants who have obtained citizenship from sponsoring certain family members and likely deterring skilled immigrants who are considering relocating to the United States. The White House proposal also expedites deportations for undocumented immigrants, effectively “strip[ping] all those people, if caught by the federal government, of their right to a deportation hearing before a judge.”

    Fox's servile "major concession" drumbeat is just another example of the network sacrificing context to push the White House’s agenda.

  • Univision hosts denounce Trump’s characterization of immigrants as criminals at his first State of the Union address

    Univision’s Ilia Calderón: “The president used his speech once again to stigmatize all immigrants”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision hosts Jorge Ramos, Ilia Calderón, and Enrique Acevedo responded to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address on January 30 by denouncing his attempt to “once again stigmatize all immigrants,” with Ramos noting, “it must be strongly emphasized that a large part of immigrants in the United States is not members of MS-13”:

    JORGE RAMOS (CO-HOST): This is a president that, particularly at the end of his speech, was reading very slowly -- there was a moment, perhaps the most emotional, for me, was between the parents of Otto Warmbier, the young student who died in the United States after being tortured in North Korea. His parents crying in that moment seemed terribly [moving] to me.

    Difficult, also, is the situation, of course, of those who lost their children to MS-13 gang members. But it must be strongly emphasized that the large part of immigrants in the United States is not members of MS-13.

    ILIA CALDERÓN (CO-HOST): That's right, Jorge. The president used once again his speech to stigmatize all immigrants who came to the United States because the first thing he mentioned in his speech were those young people who died at the hands of gang members. And, like you said, all Hispanics are not gang members.

    RAMOS: Exactly.

    CALDERÓN: There are hardworking Hispanics. There are Hispanics doing things right in this country.

    In a dishonest ploy to usher in anti-immigrant policies that would be counterproductive to improving public safety, Trump and his allies routinely depict undocumented immigrants as criminals and gang members. This racist and xenophobic rhetoric is particularly disingenuous when it comes to MS-13, which has American roots. As explained by Splinter News, “Trump failed to mention that MS-13 is actually a gang that was born in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It only spread abroad because of the U.S. government, and experts have found scant evidence that its American branch is primarily made up of immigrants.” Speaking to White House Director of policy and interagency coordination Carlos Díaz-Rosillo, Acevedo called out this tactic, noting that Trump spoke heavily about the criminality of immigrants, but did not mention their “contributions and value”:

    ENRIQUE ACEVEDO (CO-HOST): Even though the idea of reconciliation and unity was discussed, the entire immigrant community was presented through the filter of criminality, of gangs, like Jorge and Ilia said at the beginning of the program. There was not much about the contributions and value of immigrants in the country. Was it not worth it to mention, at the same time, in the speech, both?

    CARLOS DÍAZ-ROSILLO: But he said something even more important, which is that he wants to give, not only a legal status, but also a path to citizenship for more than 1.8 million young people. It was expected that that would only be granted to 690,000. Almost 2 million young people will benefit if the president's proposal is approved by Congress.

    After listening to immigrants and Dreamers respond to Trump’s speech with dismay, Ramos summarized their message. Speaking directly to the camera, Ramos declared, “The message is clear, Mr. Trump. We are not members of the Mara Salvatrucha. We're not”:

  • Only one Sunday show talked to immigrants and DACA recipients

    While discussing Trump’s immigration proposal, only ABC’s This Week spoke with those directly impacted by it

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In discussions about President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration framework, ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that spoke to immigrants directly impacted by it. CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press only invited elected officials, members of the administration, and political pundits to discuss the issue.

    Trump’s proposal to lawmakers involves granting a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants who would’ve qualified for the protections but didn’t sign up for the program, and others newly eligible. In addition, the plan calls for $25 billion for a border wall and other border security, eliminates the diversity visa lottery, enables the administration to increase its deportation capacities, and radically rolls back family-based immigration, which would sharply cut legal immigration. The proposal has been criticized for its ties to white nationalist ideology.

    Only ABC’s This Week spoke to immigrants and DACA recipients who would be directly impacted by the plan:

    When it comes to immigration coverage, media have a history of ignoring the voices of those affected the most by immigration policies. In September, only a day after Trump rescinded DACA, less than 10 percent of guests invited to discuss the policy on cable news networks were DACA recipients. Networks have often helped mainstream anti-immigrant extremism by inviting on members of nativist groups and normalizing pejorative nativist buzzwords.

    As Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on the January 28 edition of Reliable Sources, the way audiences learn about “people outside of our own communities is through the media.” As a matter of good journalism, networks should make an effort to elevate voices less heard, especially in a conversation as important as immigration policy.

  • The Muslim ban one year later: 5 ways media can avoid fueling anti-Muslim extremism

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA LENN & NINA MAST

    A year ago today, President Donald Trump signed the first iteration of the Muslim ban, restricting travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. Since then, the executive order, which was a core Trump campaign promise, has faced powerful legal challenges, implementation roadblocks and forced revisions -- yet, parts of it still remain intact. Just as important, the ban has become one of the clearest windows into the challenges and harms the Muslim community faces in the era of Trump.

    With more news coverage being devoted to American Muslims’ diverse experiences with Trump in the White House, it is important for journalists and media outlets to avoid aiding and abetting anti-Muslim extremism in the year ahead. Here are five do’s and don’ts for media outlets to consider:

    DO offer appropriate context about the anti-Muslim hate groups behind the Muslim ban and the Trump shills’ dishonest defense of it

    When Trump first called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” as a presidential candidate, he cited a flawed poll from the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy (CSP) as justification for its implementation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CSP a “hate group” for being a prominent “conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.” From the moment Trump enshrined this campaign promise into an executive order on January 27, 2017, white nationalists and neo-Nazis threw their unwavering support behind the discriminatory policy. And as it faced myriad legal challenges, Trump surrogates and anti-Muslim commentators attempted to sweep the ban’s original intent under the rug, framing it as nothing more than a national security precaution -- not a ban targeting Muslims. This year, the Supreme Court will decide the legality of the third iteration of Trump’s ban. It is imperative that media highlight its hateful origins and the extremism of the groups and activists mobilizing to keep it alive.

    DON’T cite or quote anti-Muslim hate groups and their surrogates without identifying their backgrounds of extremism

    As anti-Muslim extremists have found more political legitimacy under this administration (even finding positions directly in the administration), major outlets -- especially Trump’s go-to network, Fox News -- have given them a platform to discuss Trump’s latest policies and rhetoric targeting Muslims. Too often, viewers and readers are not informed of these talkers’ backgrounds of extremism or hate group affiliations. Extremists exploit this lack of disclosure by casting themselves as legitimate talking heads and experts in the fields of national security and immigration. Some media outlets tend to reinforce this by couching their coverage and discussions about Muslims largely in the context of immigration and terrorism, which fuels Trump’s narrative -- and that of anti-Muslim groups -- that Islam is foreign and “other” and the Muslim community poses a threat to national security. As Media Matters and Southern Poverty Law Center note in this journalist’s guide to anti-Muslim extremists, reporters and media outlets are better off seeking other sources. But when they are covering these extremists’ activities, it is imperative that they alert their viewers and readers to their hate-based rhetoric and policy positions.

    DO rely on Muslim leaders, activists, and experts to discuss the Muslim community’s experiences in the Trump era

    While anti-Muslim groups and personalities have enjoyed more media attention, some major outlets have largely failed to turn to Muslim leaders in real time to discuss Trump’s latest anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric. For example, immediately after the administration revealed the first two iterations of the ban, the vast majority of guests brought onto CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News’ prime-time shows to discuss the news were not Muslim. With that lack of inclusion, discussions of the ban on these networks largely revolved around the political and logistical consequences of the executive order -- not its real-life impact on the people affected. It is essential for reporters and outlets to turn to more leaders and experts in the community to inform their reporting.

    Additionally, it is important for journalists and outlets to highlight the tangible and personal consequences of Trump’s anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric. As Muslim Advocates’ special counsel Madihha Ahussain noted on a recent press call with Media Matters and Southern Poverty Law Center, “Whether it has been Muslims walking on the street being called names and threatened with violence, Muslim women wearing headscarves being physically attacked, Muslim children in schools being bullied, or mosques around the country being vandalized, it seems and feels as though no aspect of the community has been spared from the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and violence over the last year.” Sure enough, in 2016, there was a 20 percent increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes. In the first half of 2017, there was a "91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes ... as compared to the same time period in 2016." And in 2017, there was an average of nine mosque attacks per month from January through August, according to a CNN analysis.

    DON’T resort to false balance, “both sides” reporting in response to anti-Muslim hate

    Anti-Muslim extremists count on the media to cover their talking points and activities as supposedly credible counterpoints to actual experts. In response to the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, too many media outlets have introduced false balance in their reporting and commentary, pitting pro-Trump extremists against Muslim advocates and experts. When Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos in November 2017 that were posted by an ultranationalist British leader, CNN, for example, covered these tweets with a series of “both sides” panel discussions stacked with pro-Trump commentators that justified and defended the tweets. By introducing two sides to this debate as valid, the network muddied the truth about these harmful videos and their impact on the Muslim community. “Both sides” reporting and commentary unnecessarily inflames anti-Muslim sentiment and increases its real-life impact.

    DO acknowledge the weaponization of anti-Muslim sentiment online

    Journalists and media outlets can’t ignore the rise and weaponization of anti-Muslim hate on major online platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Too often, members of the “alt-right” harass Muslims online and fake news websites publish fake news stories demonizing Muslim communities that go viral here in the U.S. and throughout the world. Highlighting this reality and Muslim leaders’ front-line experiences with online hate gives viewers and readers a broader understanding of the challenges the community faces in the Trump era and encourages greater accountability from the online platforms that are exploited to amplify anti-Muslim hate.