All of America continues to mourn the unbelievably tragic loss of Christina Green, the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Phillies' manager Dallas Green who was killed, along with five adults, by a murderous madman trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. The sight of Christina's parents and brother in the gallery at the State of the Union address last night is more proof that the killing of such an innocent continues to resonate with the American people.
You've heard all about Christina Green, but do you know about Brisenia Flores? Like Christina, Brisenia was 9 years old, and she also lived in Pima County, Arizona, not far from Tucson. Like Christina, she was gunned down in cold blood by killers with strange ideas about society and politics.
But there are also important differences. While the seriously warped mind of Christina's Tucson murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, is a muddled mess, the motives of one of Brisenia's alleged killers-- a woman named Shawna Forde -- are pretty clear: She saw herself as the leader of an armed movement against undocumented immigrants, an idea that was energized by her exposure to the then-brand-new Tea Party Movement. But unlike the horrific spree that took Christina's life, the political murder of Brisenia and her dad (while Brisenia's mom survived only by pretending to be dead) has only received very sporadic coverage in the national media. That's a shame, because it's an important story that illustrates the potential for senseless violence when hateful rhetoric on the right -- in this case about undocumented immigrants -- falls on the ears of the unhinged.
This week, Forde is on trial on Tucson, and the details are horrific:
As her mother tells it, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores had begged the border vigilantes who had just broken into her house, "Please don't shoot me."
But they did -- in the face at point-blank range, prosecutors allege, as Brisenia's father sat dead on the couch and her mother lay on the floor, pretending that she too had been killed in the gunfire.
Why did Forde, said to be the "mastermind," and the other alleged killer, Jason Bush, carry out this heinous crime? Prosecutors allege that Forde cooked up a scheme to rob and murder drug dealers, all to raise money for the fledgling, anti-immigrant border patrolling group called Minutemen American Defense, or MAD.
I wrote about Forde and her warped "politics" in my recent book, The Backlash. I noted that in April 2009 -- as first reported by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, an authority on nativist, right-wing groups in Arizona -- Forde was amped up after attending her first Tea Party on the steps of the state capitol in Phoenix.
"This is the time for all Americans to join organizations and REVOLT!!!," she wrote in a blog post that was retrieved from the Google cache by Lemons. "Refuse to be part of a system only designed to enslave you and your children. Times will be worse before they get worse. *Say no to illegal immigration* Lock and Load, Shawna Forde."
It was this same month that Forde and her ragtag Minutemen band allegedly approached drug dealers in southern Arizona with a scheme to kill and rob their rivals for cash. One of Forde's goals, allegedly, was to buy a 40-acre property near the border that she intended for her group to use as a base for raids -- which she called "Delta One Operations" -- on undocumented Mexicans crossing the border.
Forde and her co-conspirator Bush -- who reportedly has ties to the white supremacist Aryan Nation -- broke into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores, Brisenia's dad, on May 30, 2009, or just six weeks after Forde's online call for a political revolt. As related this week at Forde's ongoing murder trial:
According to testimony, Bush shot Flores, then Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hit in the shoulder and leg and slumped to the floor. She testified that she played dead as she heard Bush pump more bullets into her husband as Brisenia woke up.
"Why did you shoot my dad?" the girl asked, sobbing, according to Gonzalez's testimony. "Why did you shoot my mom?"
Gonzalez said she heard Bush slowly reload his gun and that he then ignored Brisenia's pleas and fired.
In the wake of the Tucson shootings earlier this month, there was a lot of talk about hateful rhetoric and violent imagery in American politics, and there was a lot of pushback when it emerged that the gunman in that case, Loughner, didn't follow mainstream politics, just some extreme crackpot theories on the Internet. But what happened to Brisenia Flores is different. She lost her life because a couple of unhinged crackpots absorbed all that "lock and load" blather in our atmosphere and actually did something about it. We should not be shocked. But we do need to figure out how to make sure that never again will the life of innocent girl end because of this political madness.
And just as we will never forget Christina Green, America needs to always remember Brisenia Flores.
From the January 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News does not like Clarence Dupnik. Anyone who's tuned in to Fox over the past two weeks knows that the network is no fan of the Pima County sheriff, who made headlines across the country following the Tucson shootings for his comments about how "vitriol" in American political discourse "is getting to be outrageous." He also said that Arizona has "become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry." Conservative media across the board decried Dupnik's comments as inappropriately placing blame on right-wing rhetoric and accused him of being, in the words of Fox host Bill O'Reilly, a "left-wing activist."
So it's no surprise that Fox was all too happy to hype recent announcements that a few conservative groups are calling for the voters of Pima County to recall Dupnik. This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed the head of an anti-immigrant group called Americans Against Immigration Amnesty (AAIA) about its recently launched petition-signing effort to recall Dupnik. Carlson repeatedly attacked Dupnik and eagerly hyped the group's plan, inviting Dan Baltes, executive director of AAIA, to plug his website. From the interview (emphasis added):
From the January 24 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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I've written before about the differences in tone between Fox News and their latest online venture, Fox News Latino. On the one hand, Fox News Latino is designed to expand Fox's audience to incorporate the rapidly growing Hispanic demographic. On the other hand, Fox News has long had an editorial stance towards Hispanics that could best be described as "hostile."
That dichotomy is on display again with news that the family of a Mexican teenager who was shot and killed by a border patrol agent in El Paso has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit.
First the facts behind the story. On June 7, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, 15, was shot in the head by a border patrol agent as several people were being arrested for illegally crossing the border. The FBI claims that Hernandez was among a group of people throwing rocks at the border agents, and that rock throwing has long been a justification for using lethal force. The family's attorney says that witnesses deny any rock throwing and claim that a video of the incident backs up their statements.
At Fox News Latino, the news of the lawsuit was handled in a straightforward manner, with a brief report on the filing of the suit and some background for the story with an accompanying stock photo of the U.S./Mexico border.
On Fox News, the story was treated differently.
Yesterday on Fox News' Happening Now, anchor Jon Scott conducted an interview with the slain teenager's family's attorney. In introducing the combative segment, Scott referred to undocumented immigrants simply as "illegals" -- a dehumanizing shorthand frequently encountered on the network -- and aired several grainy video clips of rocks being thrown at the U.S./Mexico border. Remember, the family attorney denies the claim that the boy threw rocks and that the video of the shooting corroborates this. But Fox News aired other video clips of other people throwing rocks at the border.
Watch the video of the segment below:
Now, this obviously isn't the most flagrant example of Fox News' anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it's also important to keep in mind that this is program is part of Fox News' "hard news" lineup. And it serves as yet another example of Fox News' cynical attempt to court Latinos while simultaneously maintaining an antagonistic posture towards Hispanic interests.
From the January 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends
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Right-wing media have accused Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of being a liberal activist in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. However, Dupnik has previously encouraged gun ownership among his constituents, has advocated for citizenship checks of students in public schools, and supported the controversial Arizona immigration law after some provisions were removed.
Fox News lauded Republicans' ceremonial reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor. However, Fox News figures have boosted right-wing efforts to change birthright citizenship as provided by the 14th Amendment in order to exclude the children of illegal immigrants.
A law enforcement memo reportedly states that alleged Arizona shooter Jared Loughner is "possibly linked" to the white supremacist magazine American Renaissance, edited by Jared Taylor. As the memo indicates, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was targeted in the attack, is "opposite this group's ideology" on immigration.
Fox's so-called legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. has been on a bit of a tear lately, relentlessly attacking the 14th Amendment and suggesting that his "hard look at" 14th Amendment Supreme Court cases shows that it was never meant to apply to children of foreign citizens. Yesterday, Johnson announced that we should "begin to discuss" ideas like giving a second class of citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, "meaning that if your parents are illegal in this country, then you would not be conferred the same type of citizenship that others" whose parents are citizens would get.
Later, he and Fox News host Megyn Kelly (both lawyers) continued to twist facts and ignored history on birthright citizenship, dismissing Supreme Court rulings on the 14th Amendment as being "political" rather than "constitutional."
Today on Fox & Friends, Johnson continued his assault on the 14th Amendment by imploring Fox News viewers to "look at the dissent" in the 1898 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, which he said showed that the 14th Amendment wasn't meant to apply to children of illegal immigrants. He rather emphatically declared: "The dissent in that case said that the Chinese immigrant should NOT be a citizen based on the 14th Amendment." Why would Johnson be demanding viewers to "look at the dissent" of that case? Why, because the Supreme Court actually ruled that a child born in the U.S. to foreigners was a U.S. citizen, of course.
From a January 7 promo for On The Record With Greta Van Susteren:
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Earlier today, we documented how Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Peter Johnson Jr. (both attorneys) twisted the facts to claim that the Fourteenth Amendment was not meant to provide citizenship to children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. Not to be outdone, Fox's Bill O'Reilly claimed that "the Constitution is being misused" by parents of so-called "anchor babies."
Why Fox chose today to return to their attacks on these immigrant children is unclear.
But credible scholars, including conservative scholars, continue to debunk their argument. Yesterday, James Ho, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed stating that the children born in the United States are citizens even if their parents were not legally present in the country. Indeed, Ho says "[t]he plain meaning of this language is clear" that these people are citizens.
And Ho isn't some lone conservative legal scholar bucking the rest of the movement. Libertarian-conservative law professor Eugene Volokh stated that as a matter of policy "I think that children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens or legal alien tourists should in principle not automatically get U.S. citizenship as a result." But Volokh also said: "My sense is that [Ho] is quite correct on the constitutional question."
And Freshman Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) told Chris Matthews today that birthright citizenship is "a settled question. They're American citizens":
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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This afternoon on Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly spoke with Peter Johnson Jr. about the current legal challenges to birthright citizenship, as established by the 14th Amendment, and gave a wildly dishonest reading of the law and precedent to suggest that conferring citizenship based on birthplace is unconstitutional.
The segment is clipped below.
The 14th Amendment states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Johnson said that the "constitutional argument today that's being made is that the folks who are illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens, are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States as defined in the 14th Amendment." Kelly said there's a "shocking dearth of Supreme Court precedent on this. ... There's not a lot of cases out there that take up the issue about what the 14th Amendment was meant to speak to." They briefly discussed the 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which held that a child born in the U.S. to parents who were "subjects of the Emperor of China" was, in fact, a U.S. citizen. Johnson, however, dismissed that ruling as "political," as opposed to "constitutional," and a "weak" precedent.
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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