In spite of the August 3 mass shooting in El Paso which left 22 people dead and is now being investigated as a federal hate crime, Fox News has continued to promote the inflammatory rhetoric that was echoed by the gunman.
Just minutes before the shooting, the gunman posted a 2,300-word manifesto on 8chan, writing that he was “simply defending” his country from “cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” This rhetoric is nearly identical to the language prominently used by Fox News hosts and guests in recent months.
The New York Times reviewed hours of recent Fox News broadcasts and found over 300 instances where Fox referenced an “invasion.” Most of the clips were of Fox hosts and guests, but some segments also included clips of President Trump using the language.
Trump has used words such as “invasion” and “killer” over 500 times to describe immigrants. Additionally, his 2020 Facebook campaign ads routinely describe immigrants as an invasion. Three months before the El Paso shooting, Trump was at a rally in Florida and said “how do you stop these people?” in reference to immigrants crossing the southern border. Someone in the crowd then yelled, “shoot them!”
At his rally tonight, Trump says the government is unable to violently attack immigrants, someone in the crowd shouted "Shoot them!"
The crowd & Trump erupt in laughter & cheers. Trump says, "Only in the panhandle can you get away with that statement."pic.twitter.com/SgQd2OH9ti
— jordan (@JordanUhl) May 9, 2019
Conservative writer and Trump-critic Bill Kristol spoke to The New York Times about the relationship between Trump and Fox. He called it “a vicious cycle” and said “Something is said on Fox News, and Trump repeats it, and that legitimizes it – and then someone else goes a little further.” The links between the Trump Administration have been well documented. Exemplified recently when Raj Shah, former deputy White House press secretary, went to work for Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News.
After the shooting, Media Matters reported that Fox News hosts had doubled down on their use of the words “replacement” and “invasion.” On August 6, Laura Ingraham tried to defend the use of the term “invasion” saying,“A lot of people have called it an invasion over the years, that’s not all that surprising today.” That same day, Brian Kilmeade said, “if you use the term ‘invasion’ that’s not anti-Hispanic. It’s a fact.”
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is defending using the term "invasion" to describe migrants crossing the southern border this morning: "If you use the term 'invasion,' it's not anti-Hispanic, it's a fact." pic.twitter.com/dOsgYVgrV2
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) August 6, 2019
A few days later, Fox Nation host Todd Starnes tried to justify the use of the word “invasion,” calling it a “fair description” of the situation at the southern border. “We have been invaded by a horde, a rampaging horde of illegal aliens,” Starnes said. “This has been a slow-moving invasion.”
Fox's Todd Starnes compares undocumented immigrants to the Nazis, claiming "we have been invaded by a horde, a rampaging horde, of illegal aliens" pic.twitter.com/lOe8VfNVaY
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) August 14, 2019
Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson, who hosts one of Fox’s highest-rated shows, was criticized for calling white supremacy a “hoax” and a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country.” Just days before the El Paso shooting, however, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases—which totaled 100 in the current fiscal year—involve white supremacists.
After his show was dropped by more advertisers, Carlson announced he would be going on an abrupt vacation, and a Fox spokesperson later confirmed his show would not air until August 19. According to CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Carlson has joined a long list of Fox personalities who have taken unannounced breaks after being scrutinized for their commentary.
Former chief political correspondent at Fox News, Carl Cameron, told The New York Times the similarity between the language of Fox and fringe ideologies is by design. He said, “Fox goes out and looks for stuff that is inherently on fire and foments fear and anger.”