Republican voters in the United States are increasingly hostile toward illegal immigrants, spurred by mounting hardline anti-immigration rhetoric from politicians whose views mainstream conservative outlets like Fox News amplify.
Fox News show no signs of letting up on its alarmist and arguably racist coverage of immigration and immigrants. A recent study by Media Matters has found that, over a 12-week period from March 22 through June 11, “Fox News personalities and guests fearmongered about migrants and the immigration system in over half of all segments that discussed immigration by implying that migrants are dangerous, falsely claiming they are an economic drain, and pushing racist conspiracy theories about migrant culture.”
The information gathered by Media Matters found that of the 1,366 total immigration segments recorded over the 12-week period, “605 emphasized danger by framing migrants as a threat to Americans, 149 suggested that migrants are an economic drain on Americans, 35 peddled racist conspiracy theories about migrant culture as a threat to American culture, including pushing the white nationalist ‘great replacement’ theory.” Perhaps the most glaring example of Fox’s penchant of misreporting was how such anti-immigrant segments were “nearly evenly divided between the network’s so-called ‘news’ and ‘opinion’ shows.”
Media Matters’ revealing study comes in the wake of an unprecedented number of U.S. border apprehensions as people flee poverty, crime, and climate related crises in their home countries.
For those familiar with Fox News’ right-wing rhetoric, these findings are not surprising. Tucker Carlson, a Fox News pundit with a long history of controversy due to his tendency to peddle racist and uniformed rants on his widely viewed television show, has framed “illegal” immigration as a particular threat to white people.
On his show, Carlson has propagated the theory of “white replacement”: the idea that non-white immigrants are slowly replacing white Americans in order to “dilute the political power” of white people such as himself. Carlson has claimed that the “Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate … with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World”.
But the Great Replacement theory is not the only thing Fox News likes to scaremonger about. According to Fox News, immigrants pose an endless number of dangers to the American way of life; they are responsible for increases in crime, murders, and drug abuse, they hurt the economy, and take jobs and spots in colleges from well-to-do white people. And while Tucker Carlson is arguably the most obnoxious voice, he is not the only voice spewing this anti-immigrant rhetoric.
On the Fox News website, a search for the word “immigrants” will result in thousands of articles, nearly all with mentions the word preceded by “illegal”; this term is not only imprecise but also acts a racist dog whistle meant to dehumanize and other the predominantly non-white immigrants coming into the United States, which, of course, is leading to the “extinction of white people.” The anti-migrant rhetoric is deeply embedded within the network.
While this new discovery of Fox News’ apparent obsession with hammering home the dangers of immigration to its viewers is not surprising, it has serious consequences. Fox News’ inclination to induce fear with overwhelmingly negative coverage has instilled a hateful, anti-immigration mindset into its viewers. Such fearmongering around the “immigration problem” is not just rhetoric. According to The Intercept, the El Paso shooter who killed 23 people – mostly Latino – was reportedly radicalized in part by the white nationalist, anti-immigration rhetoric amplified by Fox News.
According to a Pew Research study, Americans who consume news primarily within the right-wing media bubble are more likely to believe that reducing illegal immigration into the United States should be a top foreign policy priority.
Census data shows that white Americans are “no longer the racial-ethnic majority in 400 of the nation’s 3,100+ counties.” While this information may be unimportant to some, it may ring alarm bells for those affected by the anti-immigrant demagoguery of Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. Such discourse in mainstream news is likely to incite more violence and hostility toward immigrants. It is imperative that Fox News curb its disinformation and fearmongering before more extreme cases of violence against migrants and people of color takes place.