SAN DIEGO — Never mind Kansas. What’s the matter with Fox News?
Its often callous and careless coverage of the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is making people wonder, and I’m one of them.
I’ve offered commentary on Fox News for 16 years, and I’ve been a guest on more than a half dozen shows. This is my preferred news network, even when I disagree with what is said by hosts and guests whose knowledge of the immigration issue is often a taco short of a combination plate.
The nation’s leading cable news network has its share of issues. They include a ratings-driven obsession with race, ethnicity, and national origin — the kinds of things that opportunists gather and light like kindling to draw attention. They also include ham-fisted, dishonest and cringe-inducing treatment of anything related to the immigration debate, much of which has throughout U.S. history been fueled by “-isms”: racism, nativism, ethnocentrism.
Fox hosts and guests are obnoxious
Since the border crisis began several weeks ago, Fox News hosts and commentators have repeatedly come across as glib, obnoxious, and insensitive.
►“Fox and Friends” Host Brian Kilmeade noted that, while the refugees may be suffering, at least “these aren’t our kids.”
►Fox News Commentator Corey Lewandowski responded to a story about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been taken from her mother and put in a cage by saying: “Womp, womp.”
►Fox News Host Laura Ingraham likened the harrowing experience of children being separated from their parents and detained in facilities to “summer camps” or “boarding schools.”
►Frequent Fox News guest Ann Coulter expressed skepticism about the entire story and likened the children who had been stripped of their parents to “child actors.”
►Last but not least, there is Fox News Host Tucker Carlson who insisted the border crisis wasn’t about families at all but rather an attempt by elites to “change your country forever.”
Carlson is the ringmaster of this circus. He can’t stop pushing the hot buttons of race, ethnicity, immigration, culture, and language. It is why he has been accused — by people like MSNBC Host Joy Reid — of promoting white nationalism.
He recently asked why Americans don’t view Mexico with the same distrust we view Russia. After all, he said, Russia is not invading our country and flooding it with crime and drugs.
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We can’t afford news media blunders in the Trump era. Skip the cheap smear tactics.
Also, this is the same person who invites Latinos onto his show then mocks them if they disagree with him.
A few months ago, it was Cesar Vargas — an undocumented immigrant and lawyer — who got attacked. Carlson talked down to him and questioned his intelligence. He told Vargas: “I know you say you’re a lawyer.” Then he added: “I don’t want to check your bar license.” And this: “I’m not allowing you to teach American history on my show because you’d fail the course.” And finally, Carlson taunted Vargas — who dreams of becoming a U.S. citizen — with “I’m an American and you’re not.” He added: “I don’t think you should become a citizen. No offense or anything.”
Who is Carlson kidding? His schtick is all about offense. He caters to white nativists who believe that all Mexican immigrants are takers and predators and who are fed up with being called “racist” for buying into racist stereotypes.
The strategy is working. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” regularly racks up more than 2.5 million viewers and sometimes closer to 3 million.
But Carlson’s fan base does not include Bob Beckel. The Democratic strategist and former Fox News host recently tweeted a message to him: “I’ve known you for years u were once a decent thoughtful man. What the (expletive) has happened to you. U r too smart to fall for TRUMP’s (expletive)!”
Fox News’ spasm of ugliness has been noticed by Hollywood. Producers are so uncomfortable with how Fox News has reported on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that they plan to sever ties with 21th Century Fox Entertainment.
Film producer Judd Apatow called for colleagues to complain about Fox News’ coverage of the border crisis. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “is a (expletive) kidnapper! The Murdoch’s support these policies! Where are the Fox stars and executives speaking up…?” Apatow tweeted, referring to Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox.
Paul Feig — who directed “The Heat” and “Spy” — tweeted that that he would not condone the support Fox News gives to the “immoral and abusive policies and actions taken by this current administration toward immigrant children.”
And Steve Levitan — co-creator and co-executive producer of “Modern Family” — tweeted: “I am disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with @FoxNews. This (expletive) is the opposite of what #ModernFamily stands for.”
What does Fox News stand for these days?
Recently, Carlson tweeted: “More & more it feels like racial division is the subtext of everything. Topics that seem totally unrelated to ethnicity are suddenly racially fraught. The effect is a deeply angry, divided & terrified country. How long do we have to live this way? How did we get here? #Tucker.”
Seriously? How did we get here? Dear #Tucker, you and your buddies at Fox News need to look in the #mirror.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of the daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation.” Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette.