Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes favors immigration reform and that Fox News has been balanced in its coverage, which contradicts reports of Ailes' hostile stance towards immigrants and the network's ongoing demagoguery of the issue. Graham has previously noted the influence that the Ailes-run Fox exerts over conservative voters, and is facing a race this year with several primary challengers to his right where the support of Fox viewers could be key.
In the past, conservatives seeking to secure Republican nominations have sought to appeal to Fox News and its audience, and the network has heavily featured those "Fox candidates" in return. Fox has also devoted network resources to creating anti-Obama ads and has appropriated Republican Party opposition research as news content.
On January 14, Sen. Graham told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that Ailes favors reforming the American immigration system and that Fox has been "far more balanced" in its coverage of the issue recently.
But in The Loudest Voice in the Room, New York Magazine contributing editor Gabriel Sherman quoted Ailes as saying that he believes that as part of the certification for Navy SEALs he "would make it a requirement that you would have to personally kill an illegal immigrant coming into the country."
The Journal reported that a spokesman for Graham "was speaking up both because he believed the book was unfair to Mr. Ailes" and that it would be unhelpful to the future of the immigration debate if House Republicans "think that the chief of Fox News favors shooting illegal immigrants."
Graham added that he "met with [Ailes] at least three to four times in person and talked to him a lot" about immigration. As a result of his meetings, Graham said Fox News had changed its handling of immigration: "People who observed the debate noticed that the tone was different and not so one-sided. It wasn't 'amnesty' every 15 minutes."
Media Matters has extensively documented Fox's anti-immigrant rhetoric and reporting. Prime-time hosts on the network have regularly used derogatory terms like "illegals," "anchor babies" and "children of the corn" to describe immigrant families.
The network also cut away early from a speech by President Obama as he pushed for reform and attacked a pro-reform rally as a "political favor" to administration supporters while hosting an anti-immigrant filmmaker.
Sen Graham has previously expressed concern over Fox's influence within the conservative movement. In 2010, Graham supported a bill that would reduce greenhouse gases and carbon pollution. He reportedly urged other senators to negotiate on the bill "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process." One person involved with the negotiations told the New Yorker, "He would say, 'The second they focus on us, it's gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it's gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'"
A few months later, Graham walked away from the bill and said he did not believe human emissions "are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change."
Fox has a history of deep involvement and influence within the GOP, and would likely be a good ally for Graham to have in order to curry favor with the party's conservative base.
A recent FoxNews.com opinion column was headlined "Two cheers for Lindsey Graham -- not conservative, but an indispensable Republican." After laying out a positive case for Graham's conservative positions on several issues, the column concluded, "You can bet that in 2014 Palmetto State conservatives used to voting for their own will reelect their indispensable U.S. senator."