On Sunday, the Miami Herald reported on the case of convicted felon Kesler Dufrene, a Haitian national who was the prime suspect in a triple murder committed after he was freed following the Obama administration's deportation stay to that country. Right-wing media are now using the case to attack President Obama and push the racially charged narrative that Dufrene is Obama's "Willie Horton." But the circumstances surrounding Dufrene's case cannot be compared to those of escaped murderer William Horton.
In a blog post calling attention to the story, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft accused Obama's "failed immigration policy" of "leav[ing] three more innocent people dead." Hoft wrote: "Thanks to the Obama administration's halt on deportations to Haiti last year three people are now dead, including a 15 year old girl." He added: "Can you say Willie Horton?"
But the facts behind the Horton and Dufrene cases simply don't match up. Horton had been sentenced to life in prison without parole but was granted a weekend furlough under a Massachusetts program. He did not return from his furlough and subsequently committed assault, armed robbery, and rape. Dufrene's release, on the other hand, was based on immigration law that predated the Obama administration and long-standing U.S. policy to temporarily stop deportations to countries hit by disasters.
It's important to realize what the right-wing media are calling for in saying that Dufrene is "Obama's Willie Horton." Horton is best known as the focal point of a campaign targeting Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis during the 1988 election that consisted of unadulterated race-baiting intended to scare voters.
Fox, it seems, has now become the go-to network for controversial Arizona sheriffs. Last week, Fox News' Megyn Kelly hosted Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to address allegations that his office routinely violates civil rights laws. At the end of her show, Arpaio thumbed his nose at critics and announced on air that he was running for reelection. In October 2011, a day after stating he had formed an exploratory committee for a potential congressional run, Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu was welcomed on Fox & Friends. It was the first in a series of appearances that would afford him free campaign advertising.
For the past six weeks, Fox has given the same treatment to Arpaio, providing him with a platform from which to attack the Obama administration and propagate his baseless accusations that the administration is engaging in a political witch hunt against him. With more than a dozen appearances during that span, Fox News and Fox Business have made Arpaio a weekly mainstay on the network since early December, when they hosted him to discuss his endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president.
But not only has Fox given Arpaio an unparalleled megaphone, it has also largely closed its eyes to reports that his Maricopa County office allegedly mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases on his watch.
From the December 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the December 16 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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Over the weekend, Matt Drudge tried to inflame passions with a headline blaring "FEDS PLAN UNMANNED BORDER CROSSING WITH MEX. . ." The actual story Drudge hyped, however, should not induce panic in anyone. According to the Associated Press article to which Drudge linked, the crossing will allow access between a national park in Texas and a small Mexican town. Campers in the park used to regularly cross over to the town for supplies, but such crossings were discouraged after the 9-11 attacks.
Furthermore, the article reported: "If the crossing is approved, Border Patrol would have eight agents living in the park in addition to the park's 23 law enforcement rangers. 'I think it's actually going to end up making security better,' CBP spokesman William Brooks said. 'Once you've crossed you're still not anywhere. You've got a long ways to go and we've got agents who are in the area. We have agents who patrol. We have checkpoints on the paved roads leading away from the park.' "
But with a headline and graphic like this from Drudge, it was only a matter of time before someone from Fox took the bait:
The winner was Greta Van Susteren. Luckily for viewers, rather than turn to Fox's usual stable of anti-immigrant commentators, Van Susteren hosted Nathan Thornburgh, a contributing writer for Time, who shot down every attempt by Van Susteren to inflame her viewers with suggestions that the checkpoint could allow people to "just walk through" into America, "inflame a lot of people," cause a "drug smuggler in Juarez to move" to the checkpoint, and "enrage" local residents.
Claiming he does not "want to break up families," Fox host Eric Bolling again voiced support for mass deportation -- even endorsing the idea of going into public schools to round up undocumented immigrants. In fact, experts warn that deportations result in broken families, often those of American children, and ultimately impact children's safety and well-being.
Over the last six months, Fox News has repeatedly hyped Arizona's efforts to raise private funds to build a fence along the state's border with Mexico. However, such a fence would cost millions of dollars per mile and its effectiveness at increasing border security is unproven.
From the November 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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A recent study by the UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center titled "Quantifying Hate Speech On Commercial Talk Radio" looked at the prevalence of hate speech in Los Angeles County talk radio programs and found numerous "instances that met the study's criteria for statements targeting a vulnerable group or their supporters" in LA's John & Ken Show. In particular, the study found that the show disproportionately targeted Latino, Mexican and immigrant groups. The study looked at instances of hate speech from 2008 and found that the John & Ken Show repeatedly targeted immigrants, Latinos and Mexicans.
From the study, which looked at The John & Ken Show as well as The Lou Dobbs Show and The Savage Nation:
During the November 7 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Larry Craven, Alabama Interim State Superintendent of Schools, about the Department of Justice's (DOJ) request for student data as part of its investigation of complaints regarding the controversial Alabama immigration law. Watch:
During the interview, Doocy suggested that the DOJ overstepped its bounds by requesting this information and that this request was retribution for Alabama's new immigration law, claiming that "it looks to some people like this is a gigantic overreach by the federal government, and they're just trying to smack you down because you've got a tough immigration law."
Doocy later stated the DOJ request is "just another burden on the schools, as it sounds like the federal government is trying to crack down on your state for being tough on ... illegal immigration."
But while the DOJ did make this request because of Alabama's immigration law (H.B. 56), the request was not retribution, as Doocy suggested. As Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez explained, the request for student data is in response to concerns that the law is discouraging students from attending school:
It has come to our attention that the requirements of Alabama's H.B. 56 may chill or discourage student participation in, or lead to the exclusion of school-age children from, public education programs based on their or their parents' race, national origin, or actual or perceived immigration status, or based on their homeless or foster care status and consequent lack of documentation.
From the November 2 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News has provided Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer with softball interviews to promote her book, including calling her a "strong hero" for "many Americans." Fox's promotion of Brewer falls in line with its history of promoting anti-immigrant legislation -- such as the controversial law Brewer signed in Arizona -- and hosting mostly anti-immigrant guests to discuss immigration issues.
On Tuesday, in the first of three appearances on Fox in two days, Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu to promote his probable run for Congress. The Pinal County sheriff, a fervent supporter of Arizona's controversial immigration law, announced Monday that he has formed an exploratory committee for a potential run in Arizona's newly formed 4th Congressional District. It's fitting that Fox would be the national news network to promote Babeu's run, seeing as he is the network's favorite Arizona sheriff.
Indeed, a new study by Media Matters finds that Fox hosted Babeu at least 30 times within a 14-month span, including 18 times between April 22, 2010, and July 9, 2010. And it wasn't only Babeu, an anti-immigrant activist with questionable ties who has been spreading fears that the Southern border is "out of control." Our study found that of the guests chosen to discuss immigration issues, more than 60 percent took anti-immigrant positions or held anti-immigrant views. Anti-immigrant guests outnumbered those with a pro-immigrant point of view by a whopping 3-to-1 margin, according to our data.
Babeu, who has risen to prominence thanks to Fox News, his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, and his zealous opposition to the Obama administration, reportedly stated on Monday:
"Arizona is ground zero in the fight against drug and human smuggling. ... Rather than secure our border and enforce the law, what did we see from our Federal government? Signs in my county warning Americans to stay away, because the cartels were in control; a lawsuit against the people of Arizona; a declaration that the border is more secure than ever. Meanwhile, 400,000 people unlawfully enter our state every year, tens of thousands with criminal records, some from nations that sponsor terrorism."
On Fox & Friends, Babeu claimed that "I know a little bit more about border security and what it takes to secure that border than Janet Napolitano." Responding to criticism from the Arizona Democratic Party, which stated that "[i]t looks like Paul Babeu hopes to spend even less time as sheriff and even more time on TV than he already does," Babeu said:
BABEU: Well, I don't think they like Fox News. But we love Fox News. We're going to continue to watch and be great fans of yours out here in Arizona. We're standing up for not just the rule of law but for America. And I'm an unabashed patriot. I believe in American exceptionalism, and it's about time we have leaders in America that say that -- that we're proud of our country, we're gonna put America first.
We've got soldiers all over the world, from Germany, Japan, 28,000 soldiers in Korea, protecting, guarding, defending their border. Why don't we protect and guard and defend our border for once?
Steve Doocy replied: "No kidding." This is, of course, the oft-repeated Fox myth that the Obama administration hasn't increased border security.
Fox seems to love Babeu as ardently as Babeu loves Fox. This month alone, Babeu has been on Fox at least once every week -- four times on Fox News and four on Fox Business.
From the October 25 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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On October 18, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that the agency had deported a record number of undocumented immigrants: 396,906 foreign nationals in Fiscal Year 2011. ICE stated that this included the largest number of criminal immigrants removed at nearly 55 percent, "an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals from FY 2008, and the largest number of criminal aliens removed in agency history."
As The New York Times reported:
"We came into office focused on creating a smart enforcement system by setting a rational system of priorities, and we have done that," John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Tuesday. "We said criminal offenders would be our highest priority, and lo and behold, they are the highest priority."
The Times further reported that the deportation program has come under intense criticism by Latinos and pro-immigration activists. The article highlighted a study that found that the program "has led disproportionately to the removal of Latino immigrants and to arrests by immigration authorities of hundreds of United States citizens."
In a post today at National Review Online, Mark Krikorian brushed away ICE's numbers, calling the announcement a "hollow deportation boast." His contention? The "largest number in the agency's history" "is a lot" but it isn't big enough. "[W]hen you look at history," Krikorian argued, "the 'largest number' is only about 1,700 more than two years ago." He continued:
The Obama administration, as a matter of policy, refuses to even ask Congress for the resources needed to deport any more than 400,000 people. Now, 400,000 deportations (of illegal aliens, of course, but also of legal aliens who made themselves deportable because of crimes) is a lot, but it can easily be doubled; I remember one of the top people at INS in the Clinton years telling me that the 114,000 removed in 1997 was a really, really big number and sufficient proof of their seriousness about immigration enforcement.
Krikorian seemed to be echoing Rep. Lamar Smith, who reportedly stated on October 18: "The Obama administration continues to inflate its deportation numbers. ... [I]n reality they are enacting amnesty through inaction."