How much of an emergency? Just look at the transcripts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where immigrants star as hardened criminals and distributors of grime.
“It’s indefensible, so nobody even tries to defend it," said Carlson in December, in reference to immigration policy. "Instead, our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poor and dirtier and more divided.”
Upwards of 20 advertisers reacted to these hateful remarks by announcing their withdrawal from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” It seemed like this was a moment when the network might just back off, to acknowledge that the host went a bit too far. Such apologetic corrections do issue from the No. 1 cable-news network from time to time.
But no, not in connection with an immigration dispute. “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts,” read a Fox News statement. Never back down on immigration. Because it’s a national crisis and has been for a long time — at least according to Fox News. Fox News prime-timers such as Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham might disagree on, say, tax policy or the role of the regulatory state or, perhaps, social issues. Yet they’re all hard-liners when it comes to immigration. The issue has become the litmus test that defines whether someone is a Fox News personality.
Pluck from a hat the year 2007, when a congressional compromise on immigration reform failed in part because of rhetoric — including on his radio show — from Hannity. In July of that year, then-host Bill O’Reilly recited the network’s casual disdain for certain immigrants. “Most people watching us right now ... don’t want to hurt any poor Mexican people. They don’t want to hurt them. You know, they want to know who they are. They want to know where they are, what they’re doing. They don’t want them clustering in neighborhoods and changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood. They don’t want certainly crimes being committed by people here illegally,” said O’Reilly.
On the network’s prime-time block — anchored until April 2017 by O’Reilly himself — those casually racist words typified the Fox News ethos on immigration. These people disrupt our communities; they make things dirtier; they commit crimes.
Bold and underline that last one: O’Reilly and the rest of the Fox News opinionators went full throttle whenever they could pin a crime on an undocumented immigrant, a strain of Fox News programming that hit its peak with the killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015. An undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times was charged with — and eventually acquitted of — murder in the case. But not before Fox News demagogued it into the country’s front-burner issue of law and order. “It was San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies that killed Kate Steinle,” said Hannity in November 2017.
Consider that Carlson himself rebuked Trump in January 2018 when the president appeared inclined to accept congressional compromises on immigration. “President Trump, you’ll remember, ran for office promising to fix immigration, make good deals and, in general, do a better job than the corrupt, incompetent lawmakers, he said, were wrecking the country. And he was right, they were wrecking the country,” said the host. “And yet, today, in a remarkable twist, the president held a televised meeting with the very swamp creatures he once denounced. He told them he trusted them to craft immigration policy without his input.”
The message: Don’t compromise. That approach, indeed, has characterized Trump’s work on the issue over the past year or so. He appeared ready to sign on to a government funding bill in December but then backtracked after folks such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter complained that it didn’t contain funding for his border wall. So he shut the government down for 34 days.
Now he’s declaring the national emergency for which Hannity advocated. On his Tuesday night program, Hannity was cycling through the ways that Trump could get his wall funds — first by signing a bill with $1.375 billion for border fencing, then by scrounging around for other funds. “But the important third step needs to happen simultaneously. And that would be the president would need to declare a national emergency. This is the time. That is a necessity,” said Hannity, whose influence on the cable-newsaholic president has earned him the title of “shadow” chief of staff at the White House.
It sure is, Trump said with his declaration of a national emergency. Years and years of hatred and hype on Fox News have prevailed.