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Media Matters new study on inflammatory reporting of illegal immigration issue

Reported by Chrish - May 21, 2008 -

Media Matters Action Network has released a new study, "Fear & Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News" that details the near-hysterical reporting surrounding the critical and complicated issue of illegal immigration. Lou Dobbs tops their list of flamers, with Bill O'Reilly close on his heels and Glenn Back bringing up the rear.

They write:

Fear and Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News, a new report by Media Matters Action Network, exposes the vitriolic rhetoric heard almost nightly on these shows. They overflow not just with vitriol, but with several myths and urban legends that feed viewers' resentment and fears. The myths and misinformation disseminated on each of these programs do nothing but foster increased anti-immigrant hysteria.

Among the key findings of our study:

* Illegal Immigration and Crime: Although numerous studies have found that immigrants in general commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, these programs are positively obsessed with the topic. During 2007, the alleged connection between illegal immigration and crime was discussed on 94 episodes of Lou Dobbs Tonight, 66 episodes of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, and 29 episodes of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck.

* Illegal Immigration and Social Services: Undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving most federally provided social services and pay a variety of taxes, including sales, property (in the form of rent), and payroll taxes. Yet during 2007, the allegation that undocumented immigrants drain social services and/or don't pay taxes was discussed on 71 episodes of Lou Dobbs Tonight, 13 episodes of Glenn Beck, and eight episodes of The O'Reilly Factor.

* Myths and Urban Legends: Dobbs and Beck have perpetuated two related myths, that there are plans to construct a "NAFTA Superhighway" running from Mexico to Canada and that there are plans to join Mexico, Canada, and the United States in a "North American Union." Dobbs has discussed the fictional North American Union on 52 separate programs during the past two years. All three programs, Lou Dobbs Tonight, Glenn Beck, and The O'Reilly Factor, have presented as fact the "reconquista" myth, which states that there is a movement afoot for Mexico to take over the American Southwest.

* Unsubstantiated Allegations: On Lou Dobbs Tonight, viewers were told about a mythical explosion of leprosy cases due to illegal immigration and a mythical epidemic of voter fraud due to illegal immigration.

* Dobbs Out Front: Of the three hosts examined in detail, Dobbs is the most obsessed with the topic; indeed, fully 70 percent of the 2007 episodes of Lou Dobbs Tonight contained a discussion of illegal immigration.

These cable news bullies have chosen to rely on myths and misinformation rather than a rational debate based squarely on the facts. They have not only muddied the public debate on this very important issue, but also stoked fear and resentment in a manner that fosters anti-immigrant hysteria. It is time to put their irresponsible reporting to an end.

Read the report, sign the petition, and demand that these hosts and their network bosses put an end to the fear-mongering and misinformation.

Please make sure your voice is heard. Join with us today by signing our petition demanding that Dobbs, Beck, and O'Reilly, along with their network bosses, end the steady diet of fear, anger, and resentment they air day after day.


Paul Waldman
Media Matters Action Network

To no one's surprise (here), O'Reilly was most vocal about the alleged crime crisis, in keeping with the paternal "looking out for you" white hat character he plays on teevee. Bill O'Reilly is off tonight but we can be sure he'll attack Media Matters upon his return, with insults and name-calling and absolutely nothing on the facts.