Tensions Rise At Fox News Over Coverage And Rhetoric Surrounding Migrant Caravan

Oct 30, 2018
Originally published on October 30, 2018 6:26 pm
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The man accused of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting also frequently expressed hostility toward immigrants. Robert Bowers wrote online that he liked the idea of calling immigrants invaders. That echoes the rhetoric President Trump and Fox News have used to describe a caravan of Central American migrants still hundreds of miles south of the U.S. border. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, these connections are causing tension within Fox News.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The Washington Post just reported the group of migrants, quote, "looks like a listless mass of exhausted bodies splayed in any available shade." You might not get that impression on Fox News. Take Laura Ingraham on her 10 p.m. show last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE")

LAURA INGRAHAM: The sympathetic overwrought coverage of this invading horde is - now, calling it a caravan is a misnomer and frankly sickening.

FOLKENFLIK: Or sample the chipper morning show "Fox & Friends."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

STEVE DOOCY: I've gotten so many email from people who said don't call it a caravan. Call it an invasion.

MICHELLE MALKIN: Yes.

DOOCY: Is that fair?

FOLKENFLIK: Host Steve Doocy put the question to conservative pundit Michelle Malkin.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

MALKIN: Of course it is. It is a full-scale invasion by a hostile force, and it requires our president and our commander in chief to use any means necessary to protect our sovereignty.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN's Brian Stelter found that Fox News featured segments using the phrase invasion more than 60 times this month about the migrants. On Fox Business Network, Lou Dobbs' program invoked it dozens of times. Trump ordered 5,000 troops to the border. He tweeted yesterday, quote, "this is an invasion of our country." And Trump has without evidence claimed gang members and criminals and Middle Easterners are among them. Over on Fox, guests have similarly without supporting facts suggested people from ISIS and the Taliban might be among those migrants. Even so, the network's chief news anchor, Shepard Smith, tried to put on the brakes yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHEPARD SMITH: Tomorrow is one week before the midterm election, which is what all of this is about. There is no invasion. No one's coming to get you. There's nothing at all to worry about.

FOLKENFLIK: This month, Fox hosts and guests have repeatedly questioned whether the migrants might bring in infectious diseases - again, without evidence. Laura Ingraham.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE")

INGRAHAM: We don't know what people have coming in here. We have diseases in this country we haven't had for decades.

FOLKENFLIK: That was just one instance, though Lou Dobbs gently pushed back on such claims when made by a guest last night. Yet last week, Dobbs suggested the mailing of improvised explosive devices to prominent liberals might be a hoax. He deleted two tweets on the subject after sharp online criticism. The liberal investor George Soros, who is Jewish, was among those targeted by the would-be male bomber. Chris Farrell of the conservative group Judicial Watch appeared on Dobbs' show. Farrell tied the migrants to Soros without any proof.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

CHRIS FARRELL: A lot of these folks also have affiliates who are getting money from the Soros-occupied State Department, and that is a very great concern.

FOLKENFLIK: Soros-occupied State Department - the very phrase echoes classic anti-Jewish slanders and the show was rebroadcast just hours after the synagogue massacre. After an outcry, a top Fox Business executive denounced the remarks and said Farrell would never return. It is not known what inspired the anti-immigrant online posts of the accused Pittsburgh shooter and the alleged would-be mail bomber, yet Fox is clearly grappling with the fallout over its own related rhetoric. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.