Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham revived the nativist myth that "fanatic" supporters of immigration reform, which she identified as the National Council of La Raza, are motivated by "Reconquista" -- a movement that believes Mexico has a right to reclaim land it lost in the southwestern United States. She played on those fears, that immigrants will overrun the United States, to support her contention that English "is in decline" and is "actually a sign of jingoism."
On her radio show, after a caller stated that immigrants "have learned to game the system" and that there are parts of Colorado she cannot go into because she doesn't speak Spanish, Ingraham replied:
INGRAHAM: No, your language is gone. Your language -- in fact, your language is not only in decline, the English language, Chris, it's actually a sign of jingoism. Because remember the La Raza is all about -- the movement underneath La Raza, which defines the race - right, translates as "The Race" -- is: This is our land. You took our land. We're coming to take it back.
That's what the fanatics really think. That's not what Paul Ryan thinks, but that's what those people think. And Nancy Pelosi and La Raza are licking their chops about this immigration reform.
Conservative media figures have repeatedly attacked the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) to discredit the immigration reform movement and have tried to smear the group as racially motivated. NCLR, which has been lauded as "one of the nation's most respected Latino organizations," previously refuted several of the most inaccurate claims, including the fact that translating "La Raza" to mean "the race" is "factually incorrect."
Republican strategists admitted to BuzzFeed that a "loud minority" of voices that includes conservative media have helped hinder congressional action on immigration reform. Strategists and lawmakers maintain that this "small cadre of Republicans in the House, talk radio hosts and activists," use the "perceived threat of xenophobia" to drive opposition to reform and make House Republicans leery of the issue.
Indeed, right-wing media figures have repeatedly used racially tinged language to stoke fears of immigrants and force lawmakers to obstruct immigration reform. In fact, the front page of the Drudge Report this morning provides the perfect example:
Drudge linked to a column by conservative pundit Ann Coulter, a frequent guest on Fox News, who wrote that the Republicans' planned push for immigration reform will "wreck the country" and "solves" only "the rich's 'servant problem.' "
Another example is Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, who on her radio show today played on nativist fears of immigrants to raise opposition to immigration reform.
In a January 29 article, BuzzFeed reported:
[A]lthough there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement for many members, there's one issue at play not often discussed: race.
"Part of it, I think -- and I hate to say this, because these are my people -- but I hate to say it, but it's racial," said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If you go to town halls people say things like, 'These people have different cultural customs than we do.' And that's code for race."
There are a range of policy reasons for opposing plans to liberalize immigration or to regularize undocumented immigrants in the country, ones revolving around law-and-order concerns and the labor market. But that perceived thread of xenophobia, occasionally expressed bluntly on the fringes of the Republican Party and on the talk radio airwaves, has driven many Hispanic voters away from a Republican leadership that courts them avidly. And some Republicans who back an immigration overhaul, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the Republican Party's most vocal champions of a pathway to citizenship, acknowledge that race remains a reality in the immigration debate.
BuzzFeed went on to report: "Talk radio, particularly regional and small-market talkers, have also kept up the pressure, Republicans said, explaining that the airwaves back home are constantly filled with talk of 'amnesty' that makes backing new laws difficult." The article quoted Republican strategist Brian Walsh saying that Republicans are " 'listening to a loud minority ... [but] those who oppose this haven't been challenged to say, 'What's their plan?'"
Right-wing media have sunk to new lows in smears against President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, former NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) top official Debo Adegbile, a highly-qualified and widely praised civil rights litigator who has been senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
National Review Online contributor John Fund used anecdotal evidence of voter fraud and specious legal analysis to continue to advocate for oppressive voter identification laws.
On January 17, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that the state's voter ID law was unconstitutional under the state constitution because "hundreds of thousands of qualified voters ... lack compliant ID," and that the state had failed to ease the burdens associated with obtaining one. As The Nation recently reported, "getting a voter ID in Pennsylvania was a bureaucratic nightmare" after the statute went into effect because "[t]here are 9,300 polling places in the state, but only seventy-one DMV offices."
But Fund apparently didn't find this scenario all that nightmarish. In a recent editorial, he dismissed the number of voters without appropriate ID as "inflated" and argued that the law should still be rescued by the state legislature:
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld on a 6-to-3 vote the constitutionality of laws requiring voter ID at the polls. Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the left-of-center judges on the Court, wrote the opinion in a case involving Indiana's voter-ID law: He found that the Court could not "conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."
But our Constitution decentralizes our election procedures over 13,000 counties and towns, and states themselves are in charge of writing voter-ID laws should they choose to do so. Some do it better than others.
Last Friday, Judge Bernard McGinley of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found that his state's voter-ID law violated Pennsylvania's constitution because the manner in which it was implemented placed an unreasonable burden on voters. The law, passed in 2012, had been blocked from taking effect while the court case against it ground forward. McGinley's decision is likely to be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Or the legislature could pass a new version of the law that would answer the judge's objections.
McGinley concluded that the law had been implemented in a sloppy, haphazard way and that the state had not done enough to help provide IDs to voters who lacked one.
When Pennsylvania's voter-ID law is either appealed or rewritten, let's hope that the state does a better job debunking the inflated estimates that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians lacked an ID.
The state should also emphasize that even when voters show up at the polling place without an ID, they can vote on a provisional ballot. The state will count that ballot if the voter mails, faxes, or e-mails a copy of acceptable ID within six days of the election. If a person lacks the money to obtain the background documents necessary to acquire a voter ID, he can sign an affidavit attesting to that fact, after which his vote will be counted without further questions.
Fund's claim that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of strict voter ID laws is misleading -- the case he references is Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, which challenged an Indiana voter ID law specifically, not the constitutionality of ID requirements in general. In the Pennsylvania case, the judge made sure to note that Crawford was not particularly relevant to his analysis, because the underlying facts that supported the legal challenges were so dissimilar. But Fund ignores this important distinction between the two cases in favor of his preferred narrative: that discriminatory voter ID laws are awesome.
In a segment criticizing comments made about Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Fox News' The Five incorrectly pointed to him as the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, ignoring Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who was elected in 2013.
On January 22, co-host Andrea Tantaros, in line with an on-screen graphic, stated that Tim Scott was the only African-American senator. The discussion was a response to comments made by North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. William Barber about Scott that drew fire from conservatives.
From the January 22 edition of Fox News' The Five:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News hosted contributor Allen West the day after he smeared President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder as "the most vile and disgusting racists," airtime that West used to compare a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a January 14 post on his website, West condemned new federal guidelines aimed to prevent discriminatory disciplinary policies in schools as "racial preference policies" perpetuated by the Obama administration. In his post, West attributed self-proclaimed high school violence rates among black students to "the decimation of the black family," and gave the following message to "white Americans" (emphasis added):
This is my clear and succinct message to white Americans. How long will it be before "you people" realize you have elevated someone to the office of president who abjectly despises you -- not to mention his henchman Holder. Combined they are the most vile and disgusting racists -- not you.
The next day, Fox News' On the Record gave West a platform to further attack the DOJ. During a discussion about reports that no criminal charges are expected to be filed in the IRS targeting case, West compared Barbara K. Bosserman, the DOJ attorney who is investigating the case, to the Muslim Brotherhood because she had donated money to President Obama's past campaigns, saying, "that's kind of like asking the Muslim Brotherhood to investigate Benghazi":
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
Viewers who spent 2013 absorbed in Fox News might be under the impression that an all-out race war has erupted across the nation this year, thanks to the network's coverage of everything from voter fraud to Santa Claus echoing one common theme: white folks are being victimized in Obama's America.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN ON TRIAL
Fox became obsessed with black crime rates in the summer of 2013, when Floridian George Zimmerman went on trial for the 2012 murder of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, whom Zimmerman shot and killed while he was walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman, identified as white Hispanic, alleged that he shot Martin in self-defense, and was not subsequently arrested or charged with any crime until a significant public outcry made the story national news.
Fox immediately began running defense for Zimmerman in what became a red meat story for the network -- an opportunity to justify right-wing gun culture and stand your ground laws, stoke fears about the dangers of black youth, and paint white-on-black crime as exceedingly rare and usually justified while black crime is exploding.
In 2012, a year before Zimmerman's trial, Fox's Sean Hannity was already trying to connect the case to the New Black Panther Party, while Geraldo Rivera blamed Martin for his own death because Martin was wearing a hoodie. But it was after Zimmerman was found not guilty in 2013 -- and after President Obama weighed in on that outcome -- that Fox's race-baiting sunk to new lows.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace spent an entire segment pushing misleading black crime statistics in order to ask whether Obama's remarks about Trayvon Martin were deflecting from the real problem -- black violence. Popular host Bill O'Reilly echoed the deceptive statistics, prompting MSNBC's Chris Hayes to observe that everything O'Reilly was saying on race is "easily debunked with about 20 minutes of Googling."
Weeks later, O'Reilly would revisit the Trayvon Martin tragedy, saying Martin died because he looked "how gangstas look."
"TRAYVON MARTIN IN REVERSE": CHRISTOPHER LANE SHOT DEAD IN OKLAHOMA
In August of 2013, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, a white Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
There was no evidence that the murder was anything but cold-hearted and random - officials investigating and prosecuting the homicide repeatedly rejected suggestions that race played a factor in the crime.
Nevertheless, conservative media immediately began covering the story with a racial lens. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and imagined that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Fox News followed suit. On the Record host van Susteren invited regular Fox guest Pat Buchanan -- who frequently espouses white nationalist ideology -- onto her show to discuss the murder. Buchanan baselessly opined, "My guess ... is that it is racial." Over on The Five, host Eric Bolling channeled this sentiment, saying the murder was "likely motivated by race." Other Fox News segments in the following days questioned why the mainstream media was "ignoring the race issue" in the story, and pundits repeatedly asked why civil rights leaders weren't publicly weighing in on the murder -- a not-so-subtle attempt to tie the crime thematically to the racially-charged killing of Trayvon Martin.
But it was Buchanan who followed up his conjecture with an illustration of where the baseless speculation about racial motivations in crime can lead -- a manipulation of crime statistics to fit preconceived stereotypes about race and crime. Buchanan argued that Lane's death was just the latest symptom of a "black on white" crime spree in America, a conclusion that activist Tim Wise noted was "beyond the scope of the rational mind to comprehend."
SMEARING THE STRUGGLE FOR VOTING RIGHTS
When Fox wasn't fear mongering about black crime, it was busy supporting laws that disenfranchise minorities.
A Fox News host has debunked the claim that A&E suspending a Duck Dynasty star over racist and homophobic comments had anything to do with the First Amendment. That claim had previously been advanced by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has urged the GOP to "stop being the stupid party."
On December 18, A&E announced that they had placed Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following a firestorm over racist and homophobic comments he made in a recently published GQ article. Conservatives in the media and in public office rushed to Robertson's defense, including Jindal, who said in a statement:
"I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment."
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin similarly commented that "Free speech is an endangered species."
But Fox News' Steve Doocy repudiated this line of criticism. On the December 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade read a statement from a Robertson critic who said that "this is not a free speech issue," and commented, "I don't think that's true at all." Doocy replied, "It's not free speech because A&E as a private company can do anything they want. And they did."
From the December 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
From the December 17 edition of MSNBC Live:
Loading the player reg...
With the Megyn Kelly "white Santa" story entering its improbable sixth day, Fox News has pulled out the big gun: Bill O'Reilly. Whenever Fox is in the headlines for an embarrassing gaffe or flagrant rupture of journalistic ethics, you can count on O'Reilly -- the network's most-watched and most doggedly loyal personality -- to do a little pinch-hit PR. O'Reilly defended his new primetime colleague's assertion of the historical fact of Santa Claus' whiteness as "totally harmless." The real bad actors, according to O'Reilly, are Fox News' critics and "the far left," who are obsessed with race ("any talk of skin color brings out the zealots") and jealous of how successful the network is.
But O'Reilly coming to bat for Megyn Kelly -- not just defending a colleague but the substance of her argument -- undercuts the network's already dubious campaign to present Kelly as an island of "Fair and Balanced" objectivity in a sea of conservative commentary.
Here's what O'Reilly said:
But in this case Miss Kelly is correct. Santa was a white person. Does that matter? No. It doesn't matter. The spirit of Santa transcends all racial boundaries. It's a spirit based on generosity, kindness to children, and magical moments. But for those who despise the Fox News Channel there's nothing magical about anything we do here. Again, a little history. When we first started up more than seventeen years ago, the mainstream media was dismissive -- believing CNN and MSNBC would crush us. And they were wrong. When that became apparent, the liberal media attacked and continues to do so today. Because they cannot defeat us on the media battlefield, the far left seeks to demonize Fox News as a right-wing propaganda machine and a racist enterprise. That's why Ms. Megyn got headlines about a Santa Claus remark that was totally harmless.
Let's set something straight here. For O'Reilly to reassert the whiteness of Santa and then say "it doesn't matter" isn't actually a defense of Kelly -- it's a repudiation. Kelly's segment was premised on the idea that Santa's whiteness does, in fact, matter. It was a response to a Slate article arguing that "Santa should not be a white man anymore" but should rather, to borrow from O'Reilly, "transcend all racial boundaries." Kelly's counterargument was, essentially, "Nope, Santa's white. Deal with it."
From the December 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
The real-world impact of opinions like Megyn Kelly's was on display this week when a black ninth grader was chastised by his teacher for dressing like Santa Claus, because according to him, Santa is white. Comments such as these are not only offensive, they erode a child's self-image, as a clinical psychologist told CNN.
Fox's Megyn Kelly sparked much controversy on December 11 for insisting that Santa was, and is, white, in response to a piece by Slate columnist Aisha Harris on how the universal image of a white Santa can be difficult for minority children to reconcile with their own experiences. Kelly later accused her critics of race-baiting and targeting her simply because she worked at Fox.
On December 16, CNN Newsroom highlighted Kelly's comments when telling the story of a black student at Cleveland High School in New Mexico who was rebuked by his teacher for dressing up in a Santa outfit. According to host Wolf Blitzer, "the teacher reportedly told the ninth grader that he couldn't dress as Santa because he was of the wrong skin color."
Comments like these, and Kelly's, are harmful to children, as clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere illustrated to CNN's George Howell:
HOWELL: So when a child hears comments like that from Megyn Kelly, or from a teacher who puts his opinion out there, like we heard in New Mexico, what does it do to the child's self-image?
GARDERE: It begins to erode that child's self-image. We are a society that says that we are all equal and we can all participate in something that is generic, as Santa Claus.
Following the episode, CNN reported, the student's father said his son "really wants nothing to do with Christmas this year."
The incident at Cleveland High School is a stark real-life example of the effect that comments like Megyn Kelly's can have on children. A teacher's ridiculing the student for daring to be black and dress as Santa Claus reflects Kelly's view that Santa is invariably a white man, and minority children should simply get over it. Kelly herself summed it up well: "Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."