(Daily Kos) – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott hasn’t been alone in spreading the racist, white supremacist trope about immigrants spreading disease. Media Matters reports he’s been getting an assist from right-wing television like Fox News, which has aired at least 90 segments on this topic since Jan. 26.
The majority of these segments—65—aired this month when Abbott recklessly lifted pandemic restrictions and then falsely claimed asylum-seekers were the real superspreaders. “One-third of the segments came on what Fox News calls its ‘news’-side shows,” Courtney Hagle reports for Media Matters. “Despite right-wing media’s apoplectic focus on the threat of migrants bringing the coronavirus, there’s little evidence that migrants are significant spreaders of the virus.”
Among those spreading these white supremacist lies are one of the previous president’s favorite right-wing figures, Maria Bartiromo. The report said she “cited a Washington Times article that claims migrants are ‘flooding’ across the border with ‘10 times the COVID rate as Americans.’” Back here in reality, the Associated Press reported that “[t]he infection rates for all arriving immigrants are lower than for Texas as a whole, local officials and nonprofit groups serving those families say.”
But even as Fox News spreads lies about asylum-seeking families, at least one of its hosts is also still trying to downplay the pandemic overall to viewers.
“It’s time to retire or just ignore the control freaks,” HuffPost reported Laura Ingraham said this month in a rant against public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. “It’s time to declare victory and move on.” Media Matters reports Ingraham is herself no stranger to the “immigrants bring disease” trope, in 2019 claiming “most” immigrants at the southern border “could be bringing a variety of diseases into the country,” claiming “[w]e’ve seen TB outbreaks, we’ve seen the Measles, we’ve seen, obviously, Mumps.” Never mind that some Central American nations actually have better vaccination rates than the U.S.
”COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is the latest disease the nativist movement has politicized to demonize immigrants,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said in the early weeks of the pandemic last year.
“In the midst of the current pandemic, anti-immigrant hate groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and VDARE haven’t missed an opportunity to conflate immigration and public health,” SPLC continued. “The late John Tanton, the architect of the modern nativist movement, founded CIS in 1985.”
One of those hate groups, FAIR, recently hired former Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner and Acting Immigration and Customs Director Mark Morgan as a “senior fellow.” Chad Wolf, the unlawfully appointed former Acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, also recently secured a gig with the right-wing Heritage Foundation. These mediocre men are certainly trying to use their former government job titles to give themselves an air of legitimacy.
“An illegitimately-appointed, incompetent, Stephen Miller puppet lectures the Biden admin about how to address the challenges HE had a hand in creating?” El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar tweeted in response to one Unlawful Chad rant on the Biden administration.
Professor and immigration historian Erika Lee told PRI in 2019 that this disease trope has “absolutely been a driving factor throughout the centuries.”
“We know that whatever ‘immigrant menace’ was the focus of xenophobes in the past—whether it be Irish Catholics in the 19th century, then later Chinese and other Asians, of course, Italians and Jews and other southern and eastern Europeans and Mexicans—the claim has always been that these groups were not only racially inferior, but that they brought particularly dangerous and contagious diseases that would end up harming the US native population,” she said.
Lee said that one of the arguments was that immigrants “simply did not know how to live in sanitary conditions, that they themselves had come from uncivilized backgrounds.” In remarks just this week, Tucker Carlson claimed that “[t]his is becoming a crowded country, and crowded countries are ugly, unhappy countries. Why are we letting that happen?” The Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted in response that this is “a white supremacist talking point. The hoods are off now.”