If Fox News anchors hadn’t gotten the message before, they will now: The network isn’t going to sanction loose and utterly unsupported chatter about Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. In its programming last night, Fox News issued two corrections on the matter, one of which acknowledged that “we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France.” That came from Julie Banderas during the Saturday night program “Fox Report.”
She continued: “To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion.”
Later in the evening, Jeanine Pirro, host of “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” presented her own correction for the centerpiece of Fox News’s “no-go zone” week. On her Jan. 10 program, Pirro welcomed terrorism analyst Steve Emerson to speak about these zones, which Emerson described this way: “They’re sort of amorphous, they’re not contiguous necessarily, but they’re sort of safe havens. And they’re places where the governments, like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany — they don’t exercise any sovereignty so you basically have zones where Sharia courts are set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where police don’t go in.” Though Emerson claimed that this phenomenon plagued Europe very broadly, he zeroed in on Birmingham, England: “There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” he said. (A separate no-go-zone correction was issued by”Fox & Friends” on Saturday morning.)
In her correction, Pirro laid responsibility for the bad information on Emerson, and on her failure to correct him: “Last week on this program,” said Pirro, “a guest made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected. The guest asserted that the city of Birmingham, England, is totally Muslim and that it is a place where non-Muslims don’t go . Both are incorrect.” She went on to provide 2011 census data noting that 22 percent of the city’s population self-identifies as Muslim and that there’s no evidence of the whole no-go thing.
Not bad, though a review of the offending segment reveals that Pirro’s errors extend beyond just the failure to challenge Emerson. She gave the impression that she was rooting for these falsehoods. “This is metastasizing into a simple takeover,” she said at one point of the Muslim presence in Europe.
The Emerson-Pirro exchange mushroomed into a big problem for Fox News. Not only did the usual media-watchdog suspects hammer the network for trading in nonsense, the British prime minister did as well. “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day,” said David Cameron, who finished with this rip against Emerson: “This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”
Even before Emerson embarrassed Fox News on an international level, the network was pushing the no-go myth. On Jan. 7, three days before Emerson’s assertions, Fox News host Sean Hannity said this: “It seems if you watch in recent years, it’s not just France but all of Europe, there’s been a major influx, immigration, people from Muslim countries. They’ve even — and they’ve not assimilated, they’ve separated,” said Hannity. “They have no-go zones. If you’re non-Muslim, you’re not allowed. Not police, not even fire department if there’s a fire. Sharia courts have been allowed to be established. Prayer rugs in just about every hotel.”
Let’s put PunditFact on that rug allegation.
Fox News at one point applied some reportorial muscle to coverage of the zones. On Jan. 12, correspondent Greg Palkot issued this sum-up on Hannity’s program: “In French, they have the very fancy title of ‘zones of urban sensitivity,’ and since the ’90s, there have been something like 750 nationwide. Most of these are in the tough housing projects which often see a lot of riots surrounding Paris and other cities in France. Crime, drug use and unemployment is high in these areas. There are a large number of Muslims. There are six million Muslims in France.”
Palkot said that he had “firsthand experience” a few years back with these areas in a ride-along with French police through a “very bad ghetto” outside of Paris. “We turned one corner. The police in the car saw a group of young men at the other end of the street. They stopped. They backed up, and they rode off. I asked the commanding officer why. He said he couldn’t. I reminded him that he was a French police officer on French soil, and he was saying it was not possible to go forward. He acknowledged that difficult reality,” said Palkot.
So Palkot alleged that the police were afraid to tread in certain sketchy areas.
Moments later in the same program, this is how Hannity abridged Palkot’s words: “You know, it’s not just France,” said Hannity. “They have — listen to Greg’s report. They have a no-go zone, police are not allowed! Non-Muslims aren’t allowed! That to me is — why would France or any other country allow Muslims that have come into the country to basically take over portions of the country? That is madness to me!”
With time came more details. Thursday night, in a chat with Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” Hannity proclaimed, “All right, but the point is, it seems like everybody’s walking on eggshells. The president won’t say ‘radical Islam.’ France, they tried to appease the Islamists in their midst and the Muslims. They let them separate. They let them have their no-go zones. They let them have their own neighborhoods, ostensibly a city — a mini-state within a state, their own court system, sharia courts.”On Friday’s edition of the noontime Fox News program “Outnumbered,” co-host Andrea Tantaros came forth with a rant that included this: “There are broad swaths and pockets, as we know, of these ‘no-go zones’ that have Sharia law and they’re only going to get larger because of the fear to acknowledge it and fight it with policies that will stop these immigration tactics.”
Just how widespread was the no-go-zone chatter on Fox News? A Nexis search fetches 15 iterations since Jan. 7, though it doesn’t cover all Fox News programs. A search on the TV News Archive turns up more than 40 examples.
After Saturday night’s activity, perhaps the archives will be less busy filling up with “no-go” language from Fox News in the coming weeks. Here’s the entire text of Banderas’s remarks:
A correction now: Over the course of this last week we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France. Now, this applies especially to discussions of so-called ‘no-go zones,’ areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in and police supposedly won’t go. To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion. There are certainly areas of high crime in Europe as there are in the United States and other countries — where police and visitors enter with caution. We deeply regret the errors and apologize to any and all who may have taken offense, including the people of France and England.
Corrections by news organizations always have their detractors:
Yet the Banderas statement checks off so many important boxes: It restates the error; it states there’s no basis for it; it discloses the breadth of the bogus reports (“Over the course of this last week we have made some regrettable errors…”) ; and it affirms the network’s regret. At the very least, it should grab the attention of Sean Hannity.
Herewith a directory to the apologies: