An American Service Member In A Mexican Jail And Abandoned By Fox
Soldier Imprisoned During Bush Administration Received Much Less Attention Than Soldiers Imprisoned During Obama Administration
Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT
Fox News provided ample coverage of two separate instances of U.S. Marines imprisoned in Mexico on gun charges, using the stories to criticize the Obama administration for what was deemed an inadequate response to each situation. But Fox paid no attention to a nearly identical case of a jailed U.S. soldier that occurred during the Bush administration.
On March 31, Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi was arrested after he claimed he accidentally crossed into Mexico with personal firearms in his car, and has been held in a Mexican prison on weapons charges since that time.
Fox News heavily covered the story. A Nexis search of the network's evening programming showed that since March 31, there have been at least 31 segments about Tahmooressi's detainment, including phone interviews with Tahmooressi, his mother, and his friends. Fox host Greta Van Susteren demanded President Obama take action to free the Marine on the May 20 edition of Fox's On the Record. Later on the show, Fox contributor Allen West bashed Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as "neutered pajama-boy leaders."
More recently, Fox ramped up its criticism of the purported lack of action to more absurd levels, conducting polling asking whether the border with Mexico should be closed until Tahmooressi is returned, and one Fox host going so far as to suggest that an exchange of "five jailed illegal immigrants" with Mexico for his return, a reference to the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity after several years.
And in 2012, after U.S. Marine Jon Hammar was arrested in Mexico for carrying an antique shotgun across the border, Fox devoted at least 35 evening programming segments to Hammar, according to Nexis, often similarly complaining about the Obama administration response.
But when Spc. Richard Torres was arrested after crossing into Mexico in a similar alleged accident in mid-2008, Fox News' evening shows voiced no such criticism over the failure of the Bush administration to act quickly to secure his release. In fact, a search of Nexis shows that they never covered the story at all, an omission that cannot be explained away by differences in the cases, as the circumstances of are remarkably similar.
From a May 30 CNN report on Tahmooressi's arrest:
The Marine's mom said he accidentally crossed into Mexico with three personal firearms -- all bought legally in the U.S.
The 25-year-old had intended to drive to meet friends in San Ysidro, California, on March 31.
He was moving from Florida to California in the hope of getting a job and continuing treatment he had just begun for post traumatic stress related to his two combat tours, she said.
With all his possessions in his truck, Tahmooressi accidentally drove across the border, she said.
When he realized his mistake, his mother said, he dialed 911 and asked the operator to help him. No help came, Jill Tahmooressi said. Her son first encountered Mexican customs agents, she said, and he believed they understood that he'd made an innocent error. They seemed to be getting an escort car to help him, she said.
But officers with the Mexican military interfered, she told "New Day," and her son was arrested.
And from a May 10, 2008, Houston Chronicle report on Torres' arrest:
When he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, Spc. Richard Torres was carrying a small arsenal in his car: an AR-15 assault rifle, a .45-caliber handgun, 171 rounds of ammunition, several cartridges and three knives.
At a checkpoint, Torres didn't try to hide the weapons. But he insisted he hadn't meant to cross the border with the guns, which in Mexico are restricted for use only by the military. While searching for parking in El Paso, he said, he inadvertently drove onto a bridge leading to Mexico and could not turn around.
Now the Iraq veteran is in a Mexican jail while a judge decides whether to believe his account: that an experienced soldier accidentally ended up in a border town where drug cartels pay top dollar for exactly the kind of high-powered weapons he happened to have.
Torres ultimately spent a little more than a month in jail before he was released.
Methodology: On June 4, Media Matters searched Fox News Network transcripts separately for "Andrew Tahmooressi," "Jon Hammar," and "Richard Torres" for all available dates. Thirty-one results were found for "Andrew Tahmooressi," 35 results were found for "Jon Hammar," and zero results were found for "Richard Torres."