Media Matters' Kristian Ramos Outlines How "The Mainstream Media Legitimized" Anti-Immigrant Nativist Groups With White Nationalist Ties
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Throughout 2016, media outlets were complicit in mainstreaming the “nativist lobby,” made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, groups with ties to white supremacists whose mission is to drastically limit both legal and illegal immigration. Even though these groups have a record of producing shoddy research and pushing misinformation about immigrants, their agenda has now inspired many of President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Many mainstream media outlets contributed to the normalization of these nativist groups by repeatedly referencing them under the pretense of balance while failing to acknowledge their insidious anti-immigrant agenda or provide context about their nativist origins.
After President-elect Donald Trump pledged during his presidential run to rescind an executive action on immigration that protects from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, cable news outlets routinely discussed the program as a political tool without explaining how it benefits Americans and the American economy.
The 2012 executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, allows almost 800,000 people to study, work, and live their lives in the United States without fear of deportation. As a result of not being forced to live in the shadows, DACA recipients have generated more government revenue in the form of sales and property taxes, and created new jobs through increased consumer spending and boosted wages. The program has benefited the entire economy, but cable news coverage of DACA depicts the program as if it impacts only those who it protects from deportation.
Media Matters reviewed how evening news programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC covered DACA from August 31 -- when Trump announced he would put an end to the program -- to December 15. Of the 20 qualifying segments on DACA during that time period, its economic impact was mentioned only once. Even then, the discussion failed to provide many facts on the scope of the program’s benefits.
Meanwhile, new reports investigating the effect of rescinding DACA conclude that doing so would do more harm than good for all Americans, not just the thousands of undocumented immigrants protected by the program. On December 13, Univision reported on a study from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which found that ending DACA would reduce contributions to Social Security and Medicare by $19.9 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively, over 10 years. On December 15, Telemundo reported that if approximately 3.4 million undocumented immigrant homeowners, many of whom are protected under DACA, lost protections from deportation, the resulting mass deportation “could hit the housing market, causing losses of up to $9.3 billion.” Additionally, a November 18 report by the Center for American Progress estimated that “ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product” over the next 10 years.
Cable news networks’ failure to connect the dots on how anti-immigration policies would negatively affect the economy is a disservice to voters whose decisions at the polls were guided by a desire for a strong economy.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts from Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC using the search terms "allcap(DACA) or dreamer or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" for programs airing between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. from August 31 through December 15. We reviewed the transcripts for segments discussing the economic impact of DACA. This included reports from correspondents and guest panels and excluded brief mentions of DACA that did not generate meaningful discussion between hosts or guests.
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Univision’s daily email brief cited the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant nativist group that often peddles in misinformation, continuing the leading Spanish-language media outlet’s pattern of promoting anti-immigrant groups and failing to label them as such.
The December 5 edition of Univision’s Daily Brief claimed, “New government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than three million new documented and undocumented immigrants settled in the United States in 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years.”
CIS is one of three anti-immigrant groups, all spearheaded by retired ophthalmologist John Tanton, that use the veneer of impartiality to inundate media outlets with false statistics and misinformation about immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS -- along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, both also founded by Tanton -- as anti-immigrant white nativist groups for their ties to racist extremists. CIS’ Jessica Vaughan, a right-wing media regular, has used her media platform to misinform about sanctuary cities and peddle lies about undocumented immigrants voting and being released to commit violent crimes.
Some media outlets, like The Daily Beast, have reported on this “shady network” of anti-immigrant groups that bolster right-wing media talking points and routinely creep into mainstream media, noting that their problematic studies are often characterized by a lack of context. Univision’s propensity to cite CIS and FAIR contributes to this dangerous media pattern and threatens the integrity of immigration information.
The Wall Street Journal opinion page provided a platform for serial misinformers -- citing discredited research -- to falsely suggest that a large number of noncitizens voted in the 2016 election. The evidence used by the authors, who have made careers out of pushing misleading claims to advocate for laws that would result in voter suppression, has been criticized by academics and flies in the face of data showing no evidence that noncitizens have voted in recent U.S. elections in any significant numbers.
In a November 30 op-ed, Hans von Spakovsky, a National Review contributor and a current senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and John Fund, a columnist for National Review, asserted that “there is a real chance that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.” The authors declare that “the honor system doesn’t work” and that “there are people—like those caught voting illegally—who are willing to exploit these weaknesses that damage election integrity.”
The evidence von Spakovsky and Fund cite to back up their claim is seriously misleading, is methodologically flawed, and has been debunked by experts. Von Spakovsky and Fund point to one “2012 study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate.” But as USA Today pointed out in a write-up of the study, “experts say there's no evidence that the [registration] errors lead to fraud on Election Day.” The article quoted David Becker, the director of Pew’s election initiatives, warning that “‘the perception of the possibility of fraud drives hyper-partisan policymaking.’”
The authors also cited a 2014 study that “used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010.” That study was endlessly hyped by right-wing media, but Brian Schaffner, a political scientist who was “a member of the team that produces the datasets upon which that study was based,” wrote, “I can say unequivocally that this research is not only wrong, it is irresponsible social science and should never have been published in the first place. There is no evidence that non-citizens have voted in recent U.S. elections.” Another expert, Michael Tesler, pointed out that the study had “methodological challenges” that rendered its conclusions "tenuous at best.”
The authors additionally cited a Heritage Foundation report that they call “a list of more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud” to dispute “academics who claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.” However, as FactCheck.org noted, the report found "less than a dozen individual cases of noncitizens convicted of registering or actually voting since 2000," and USA Today found that the report, which is “based largely on news clippings and news releases,” contains “only a handful of allegations of voter impersonation that voter ID could have prevented.”
In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014."
Von Spakovsky and Fund’s reliance on discredited research is no surprise, given their history of pushing misinformation about voting. Von Spakovsky, who has been featured on Fox News and on National Review for years, has demonstrated an unending willingness to distort the truth in the service of restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws. Von Spakovsky, in particular, has repeatedly overstated the prevalence of in-person voter fraud and continues to push for voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority communities and suppress legal voters. At National Review, he also characterized the modern civil rights movement as "indistinguishable" from "segregationists." Even former President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general Dick Thornburgh accused von Spakovsky of being “wrong on both the facts and the law.”
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A New York Times article cited anti-immigrant groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and ignored their ties to nativists while reporting on sanctuary cities’ efforts to combat costly federal immigration proposals.
The November 27 Times report cited FAIR president Dan Stein and Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan. Both took the opportunity to advocate for President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities unless they enforce immigration policy, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government. The article identified FAIR as a group that “opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants” and said the Center for Immigration Studies “supports reduced immigration.”
FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media. By including commentary from nativist groups while failing to properly identify them, the Times is recycling misinformation and robbing its audience of essential context. From the November 27 New York Times report:
Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.
Supporters of tougher immigration policies, however, expect a swift response. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants, predicted “a very aggressive, no-holds-barred support for using the full power of the federal government to discourage this kind of interference.”
“These local politicians take it upon themselves to allow people who have been here for a long time to stay here and receive services,” Mr. Stein said. “The Trump administration is basically saying, ‘If you want to accommodate, don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your services.’”
Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.
“This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.
Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said. [The New York Times, 11/27/16]
Kobach “Wrote The Book” On Muslim Registry And Was Behind Anti-Immigrant SB 1070
A reported architect behind President-elect Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals, radio host and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has received significant media attention following the announcement that he was joining Trump’s transition team. However, media outlets are failing to note his ties to hate groups and nativist organizations and his attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ people.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham is reportedly under “serious consideration” to be White House press secretary in the upcoming Donald Trump White House.
In an appearance on Fox News, where she is also a contributor, Ingraham said she is “honored” to be among the contenders for the position. She added, “I'm at the point where, if my country needs me, and if I can do something to actually, you know, advance the Trump agenda, which is stuff I have written about now for 15 years, with trade, immigration and just renewing America, then I obviously have to seriously consider that.”
Throughout her career in conservative media, Ingraham has repeatedly used her platform to attack ethnic minorities (especially Latinos), civil rights organizations, and progressive leaders in a crude and often racist fashion. Here are 17 of her worst moments:
Ingraham: Minority Voters Picked Obama “Because He Was … Half-Black.” Ingraham said, “There are a lot of minorities who just voted for him because he was, you know, half-black, and that was a historical milestone.”
Ingraham: Mexicans “Have Come Here To Murder And Rape Our People.” Discussing Mexican immigrants, Ingraham said, “They have come here to murder and rape our people. We know that. That doesn't mean everybody has, doesn't mean everyone who comes across the border is a nasty, horrible person, but they have violated our laws.”
Ingraham Suggested Deported Immigrants Attempting To Re-Enter The Country Should Be Shot. Discussing undocumented immigrants potentially being deported after being released from prison, Ingraham said, “[Governor Jerry] Brown is releasing all these criminals, because they're spending too much money in the jails. By the way, the jails are what, 27 percent illegal immigrants? Why don't we ship them back home and say you come again, and you'll be shot crossing the border? Why don't we ship them out of this country, why are we paying for these horrific individuals? They do their time, get out of the country, never coming back. Never coming back. You come back, you'll be shot. I'm sorry, this is now -- so now you have a ten day waiting period? Well, you better hope nothing happens in ten days, I guess. That's a long wait, I thought four minutes was long, now you have ten days to wait.”
Ingraham Played Audio Of A Gunshot While Discussing The March On Washington And Civil Rights Leaders. While discussing the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and remarks from civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Ingraham played audio of a gunshot.
Ingraham: NAACP Is “A Push Organization For Racist Sentiments.” Ingraham said the NAACP, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in America, “has become a push organization for racist sentiments in many ways.”
Ingraham Compared Same-Sex Marriage To Incest And Polygamy. Ingraham compared the legal right to same-sex marriage to state-sanctioned incest and polygamy.
Ingraham Said People Should Wear Diapers Instead Of Sharing Bathrooms With Transgender People. Discussing how people will react to transgender people being allowed to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Ingraham said, “I think a lot of people are going to be walking around with just Depends on from now on. They're just not going to use the bathroom. Adult diapers, diapers for everybody. No one's going to be going to the bathroom. You have little kids, there's going to be no bathrooms. We're just going to all wear Depends. Everyone will just be happy. Then you'll be in your own bathroom. Everyone's bathroom is just their own clothes, OK? So this is what we're going to go to.”
Ingraham Played “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” Sound Clip To Mock Migrant Children Fleeing Violence. While discussing the plight of migrant children fleeing violence in Central America, Ingraham played a sound clip from a Taco Bell commercial and said, “I bet there are a lot of American kids who would like free food before they go to bed at night.”
Ingraham: U.S. Should Accept Only Those Refugees Who “We Can Verifiably Say Are Christians,” And Muslims Should “Stay In The Middle East.” Discussing the Syrian refugee crisis, Ingraham said, “The Christians who we can verifiably say are Christians, who are in the threat of being slaughtered, I'm happy to bring in some of them. I think most people would. But all these other people, they've got to stay in the Middle East. We cannot be the warehouse of all these, you know, Muslim people coming from these far-flung lands.”
Ingraham: “I Don’t Think Of Jewish People As Minorities Because They’re So Successful.” Ingraham said that she didn’t view Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as a minority because he is Jewish.
Ingraham Mocked Latino TV Anchor For Translating For A Guest. Ingraham attacked MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart for translating for a guest speaking in Spanish.
Ingraham: Registering Voters Is “The Politics Of Division.” Ingraham described efforts to register voters in Ferguson, MO, as “the politics of division.”
Ingraham Mocked A Protester For Speaking Accented English. Ingraham complained that she couldn’t understand a protester’s accent, noting, “Wait, what did she say at the end? I can't -- I need a translator. I speak Spanish too. I'd rather have her just speak Spanish, at least I'd understand that.” Ingraham then went on to mock her accent.
Ingraham: “A Very Compelling Case Could Be Made That [The Women’s Movement] Has Set Women Back.” Ingraham argued, “I think a very compelling case could be made that this has set women back. The most powerful thing a woman can do is give birth, that is it. That is your power, really your power. And you can do a lot of things in your life, but that's what makes you unique, and now it becomes just kind of commodified in today's society.“
Ingraham Called Spanish-Language Media Outlets “Toxic,” Said They “Revile The American Experience.” Ingraham described Spanish-language media outlets Univision and Telemundo as “toxic.” She also said, “These are Hispanic-centric networks that I think in many ways, and we've talked about this before, revile the American experience, and I think even encourage the understanding that we're living on stolen land.”
Ingraham Said Multilingualism In Schools Makes “You Think You’re In A Foreign Country.” Discussing dual immersion classes, Ingraham said, “The money this all costs is staggering. And, hence, I think that a lot of people are noticing this, have noticed it. People speaking broken language who work at various retail establishments. Language is terrible. They can't understand you, and you can't understand them. Sometimes you think you're in a foreign country.”
Ingraham Called Planned Parenthood Employees “Heinous, Hitlerian Freaks.” Ingraham was one of many in the conservative media to attack Planned Parenthood after a series of deceptively edited videos were released targeting the organization.
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Hundreds of economists, including eight Nobel laureates, signed a letter denouncing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s repeated lies about job growth, trade, immigration, the federal debt, and the state of the American economy. The misinformation the economists identified is not Trump’s alone, but the product of a right-wing media echo chamber that specializes in spreading myths about the economy to serve its partisan agenda.
The Wall Street Journal published a letter from 370 economists on November 1 denouncing Trump’s economic policies and the distortions upon which they are built. The Journal reported that the letter was “less partisan or ideological” than similar letters aimed at political candidates and instead focused on “Trump’s history of promoting debunked falsehoods” and “conspiracy theories” instead of “engag[ing] with reality.” The economists took specific issue with Trump’s false claims that the unemployment rate is higher than the federal government reports, that increasing tariffs would lead to more U.S. manufacturing jobs, that immigration has hurt the U.S. economy, and that his proposed tax cuts will decrease the deficit. From the letter:
- He degrades trust in vital public institutions that collect and disseminate information about the economy, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by spreading disinformation about the integrity of their work.
- He has misled voters in states like Ohio and Michigan by asserting that the renegotiation of NAFTA or the imposition of tariffs on China would substantially increase employment in manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing’s share of employment has been declining since the 1970s and is mostly related to automation, not trade.
- He claims to champion former manufacturing workers, but has no plan to assist their transition to well-compensated service sector positions. Instead, he has diverted the policy discussion to options that ignore both the reality of technological progress and the benefits of international trade
- He has misled the public by asserting that U.S. manufacturing has declined. The location and product composition of manufacturing has changed, but the level of output has more than doubled in the U.S. since the 1980s.
- He has lowered the seriousness of the national dialogue by suggesting that the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Education would significantly reduce the fiscal deficit. A credible solution will require an increase in tax revenue and/or a reduction in spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or Defense
- He claims he will eliminate the fiscal deficit, but has proposed a plan that would decrease tax revenue by $2.6 to $5.9 trillion over the next decade according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.
- He uses immigration as a red herring to mislead voters about issues of economic importance, such as the stagnation of wages for households with low levels of education. Several forces are responsible for this, but immigration appears to play only a modest role. Focusing the dialogue on this channel, rather than more substantive channels, such as automation, diverts the public debate to unproductive policy options.
The falsehoods the economists denounce have been well-documented -- Media Matters identified 19 economic myths Trump has spread during this election cycle. The economists took issue with Trump falsely claiming the unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent, a wildly exaggerated figure that has been repeatedly debunked after being popularized by right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
The economists denounced Trump’s attacks on immigrants and immigration reform, which have been enabled by Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and others at the network. According to Vice, Trump learned his anti-immigrant rhetoric from right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, who has attacked immigrants for years. Yet, as FiveThirtyEight chief economics writer Ben Casselman pointed out, immigration has “important economic advantages” for the United States, including stoking economic growth by imbuing the population with younger and more economically productive workers and consumers.
The economists pointed out that Trump’s proposed tax cuts will explode the deficit by $2.6 to $3.9 trillion. Media Matters has pointed out that Trump’s tax policy agenda has been discredited as “pie in the sky” and “magical thinking” by experts on both sides of the aisle, but it has nevertheless found repeated defenders in Fox News, which falsely claims huge tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans is “how we grow the economy.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has also defended Trump’s tax plan, lauding it for reducing taxes on the wealthy.
Even conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin -- no stranger to pushing absurd and unrealistic right-wing media narratives when it suits her -- slammed Trump’s “know-nothingism” on the economy. Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman had also previously hit the GOP nominee for perpetuating “a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible” with his fact-free economic populism.
But criticism from a few conservative writers does not change the fact that conservative media outlets enabled Trump’s lies, paved the way for his presidential campaign, and built the political infrastructure he needed to conquer the Republican Party. As Media Matters and others have repeatedly pointed out, Trump is a creation of the right-wing media. His willingness to echo any number of right-wing media economic myths is further proof of that.
Joe Scarborough, Brian Kilmeade Congratulate Trump For Not Making A Mess
Some media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for not making “himself the story” this past weekend and thus allowing the press to focus on the news regarding the FBI’s investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But in doing so they ignored a series of outrageous claims Trump made, including his baseless comment that Clinton could “triple the size of our country in one week” by admitting “650 million” immigrants, his call to reinstate banned torture techniques, and his accusation that Twitter, Google, and Facebook are burying new developments in the FBI probe.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace, moderator of the last presidential debate, failed to generate a meaningful discussion on immigration, meaning audiences “learn[ed] nothing new,” according to Univision. Instead, the moderator provided another platform for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant bashing while failing to dig deeper into the serious consequences immigration policies have on millions of people in the United States.
Wallace initiated the discussion around immigration by stating the positions that both of the candidates have made known to the public throughout the campaign and then asking each, “Why are you right and your opponent wrong?”
During Univision’s post-debate analysis, commentators took issue with the immigration segment because audiences “learn[ed] nothing new” even though many had been clamoring for a meaningful discussion of the topic leading up to the final debate. As Univision legal contributor Ezequiel Hernandez pointed out, many questions on specifics still linger: “The executive action was not discussed, judges were talked about in the previous topic, but the thousands of children who get to the border and are left waiting and who are deported until something is done were not discussed.”
Wallace stuck to his promise of being nothing more than a timekeeper and failed to dig deeper on the topic, instead framing his next query around an illegally obtained excerpt of a speech Hillary Clinton gave to a Brazilian bank where she allegedly said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Wallace asked Clinton, “Is that your dream? Open borders?” while ignoring both the context of Clinton’s words and Trump’s 2013 CNN op-ed in which he said, “We still have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability.” Trump had already attempted to capitalize on Clinton’s phrasing on the campaign trail, which prompted PolitiFact to analyze the claim and rate it “mostly false,” calling her immigration plan "a far cry from Trump's characterization." PolitiFact also explained that “the context of that sentence related to green energy -- and wasn’t about people immigrating to the United States.” As NBC News’ Suzanna Gamboa wrote,“The candidates seemed on the verge of a more insightful discussion” until Wallace directed the debate toward the “open borders” comment, which is when “things began to crumble.”
As predicted, Trump took advantage of Wallace’s inaction and vague immigration questioning, using it as a platform to once again smear immigrants as violent criminals, conjuring up a phrase offensive to Latino immigrants in particular: “bad hombres.”
Meanwhile, the pressing, life-altering questions many Latino immigrants have -- like the question 6-year-old Sophie Cruz suggested on OpenDebateCoalition.com, “What happens to me if you deport my parents?” -- remain unanswered.