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Fox News Keeps Fear Mongering Over Closure Of Section Of Wildlife Refuge

Reported by Ellen - June 17, 2010 -

Yesterday (6/16/10), Shannon Bream, guest hosting for Megyn Kelly on America Live, grossly misled viewers when she opened a segment by saying, "A massive stretch of Arizona now off limits to Americans. Critics say the administration is, in effect, giving a major strip of the Southwest back to Mexico. U.S. Fish and WIldlife have closed a portion of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge all along the border, warning visitors to beware of heavily armed drug smugglers and human traffickers." What Bream didn't bother to tell viewers is that the closure occurred in 2006 and concerned only 3% of the refuge. (H/T Cynthia C.)

Bream welcomed Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu who furthered the suggestion that the refuge had been recently closed. Babeu said, "It's literally out of control and violence has increased just in the last four months."

Bream didn't mention that the refuge is not in Babeu's jurisdiction.

Bream falsely added, "We're talking about something that's north of Tucson, I mean, 80 miles away from the border." Perhaps she was referring to Pinal County but the refuge is not only along the border, that's where the closure is. A media advisory from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states,

Several media outlets have been inaccurately reporting that a massive stretch of the US border at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was recently closed. Buenos Aires NWR in southern Arizona has not been closed to the public. Nearly 5-years ago, a very small portion of the Refuge closed to public access due to public safety concerns. However, the remainder (97%) of the Refuge's 118,000 acres is open to the public for recreational activities such as hiking, camping, bird- watching, and seasonal hunting.

Recent news items further falsely stated that the closure extends from the border 80-miles to the north. This distance is far from accurate. On October 6, 2006 roughly 3500 acres, or 3% of the Refuge, was closed to public access due to human safety concerns. At that time there was a marked increase in violence along the border due to human and drug trafficking. The closed area extends north from the international border roughly ¾ of a mile. A notice of the closure, including a map has been on the Refuge website since 2006.

At this time there are no plans to reopen this southernmost 3/4-mile wide portion of the Refuge. However, since 2006 the Refuge has experienced a significant decline in violent activity in the area thanks to ongoing cooperation between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Customs and Border Protection. The Refuge will reopen the area at such time that it is determined to be safe for visitors.

I had no trouble finding this information. Why didn't Bream?

Later, Bill O'Reilly also hosted Babeu for a similar segment. In O'Reilly's introduction he similarly suggested that the closure was recent: "Part of the park has now been closed because of border violence." O'Reilly later stated, "The park has been closed for some time, not the whole park." He never said that the closure happened almost five years ago.

Babeu, who seems to be making something of a media career out of his stance against illegal immigration, reiterated the same kind of inflammatory talking points he offered Bream. Just as Bream did, O'Reilly suggested that Babeu was somehow connected to the closure of the refuge.

Media Matters caught Fox News using the same bogus fear mongering on Fox Nation.

6/17/10 Editor's note: The Refuge's media advisory originally stated that .02% of the Refuge had been closed. This post has been updated with the latest advisory which says that approximately 3% of the Refuge was closed in 2006.

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