Condensed from an article in Gentleman's Quarterly's by Luke Darby
"These are not 'invaders!' Stop using these military analogies. This is absolutely painful to watch."
Conservative media was gleeful over Sunday's incident at the U.S.-Mexico border, because it gives them grist for the mill to claim that immigrants are fence-jumpers and because launching tear gas at families is something that merits high praise. However, Fox News accidentally aired an unplanned moment of clarity on Monday, when Jesse Watters attempted to set up Geraldo Rivera for another round of bashing other media outlets' coverage of the migrant caravan on The Five.
Rivera did not take the bait. Talking through Watters' attempts to interrupt him, Rivera made a passionate plea to Fox News itself, to cover these immigrants as though they were human beings. The show continued to run footage of the chaos that unfolded at the border as families ran from the Border Patrol's tear gas as Rivera delivered a monologue that's worth quoting in full.
I refuse to deal with this as a media issue, because it's far too important, with all due respect, Jesse. This is something that goes to the very quick. This goes to my soul. Fulfilling my role as the designated pinata on Fox News, I am ashamed. This tear gas choked me. We treat these people, these economic refugees as if they're zombies from The Walking Dead. I think--we arrested 42 people, eight of them were women. With children. We have to deal with this problem humanely and with compassion. These are not "invaders!" Stop using these military analogies. This is absolutely painful to watch. This is--we are a nation of immigrants. These are desperate people, they walked 2000 miles--why? Because they want to rape your daughter or steal your lunch? No! Because they want a job. They want to fill the millions of unfilled jobs we have in the agricultural sector. They want to wash dishes in restaurants, they want to deliver the pizzas. For goodness - sake, we suspend our humanity when it comes to this issue and I fear that it is because they look different than we do.
(This extremely off-brand appeal to common decency on Fox News came just as the network faces accusations of doing extremely on-brand collaborations with the Trump administration. According to The Daily Beast, a FOIA request by the Sierra Club revealed emails between Fox & Friends producers and the communications team for Scott Pruitt during his disastrous run as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Fox & Friends provided the EPA with questions and topics for Pruitt beforehand and on at least one occasion even submitted the script introducing Pruitt's segment for the agency's approval. Per The Daily Beast:
"Would this be okay as the setup to his segment?" producer Diana Aloi asked. She wrote: "There's a new direction at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump--and it includes a back-to-basics approach. This after the Obama administration left behind a huge mess more than 1,300 super-fund sites which are heavily contaminated--still require clean-ups. So why was President Obama touted as an environmental savior if all these problems still exist?"
The EPA Communications shop was pleased. "Yes--perfect," [then-EPA press secretary Amy] Graham replied. This shouldn't come as a surprise to any objective viewer: Fox News behaves more like a propaganda arm for the Republican Party than an actual news outlet, even while it accuses other networks of journalistic malpractice. This would be an embarrassing day for the network if anyone in charge there were capable of feeling shame.)
Newsweek coverage put it much less passionately:
Fox host Jesse Watters teed him up, claiming the mainstream media had not shown the true intent of the crowd. Watters said a widely circulated picture of a mother and child had failed to show how men in the crowd were "violently attacking" and taunting U.S. Border Patrol, which confirmed over the weekend that its agents had used tear gas on some in the crowd.
"I refuse to deal with this as a media issue," Rivera responded, declining to take Watters' bait. "Because it's far too important with all due respect. This goes to my soul. Fulfilling my role as the designated piñata on Fox News, I wanna say I am ashamed. This tear gas choked me."
Referencing the popular FOX/AMC television show that centers on an undead outbreak in America, he added: "We treat these people--these economic refugees--as if they're zombies from The Walking Dead. We arrested 42 people, eight of them were women with children!"
On Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement defending the choice to deploy tear gas on the crowd of Central Americans attempting to reach and enter the U.S. The agency said that "several migrants threw projectiles" at some CBP officers, who were allegedly hit, and the gas had to then be used "to dispel the group because of the risk to agents' safety."
From the Transcript of the Fox News video: "We have to deal with this problem humanely and with compassion! These are not invaders. Stop using these military analogies. This is absolutely painful to watch! We are a nation of immigrants. These are desperate people. They walked 2,000 miles. Why?! Because they want to rape your daughter or steal your lunch? No. Because they want a job! They want to fill the millions of unfilled jobs we have in the agricultural sector. They want to wash dishes in the restaurants," he told his silent fellow hosts. "They wanna deliver the pizzas. For goodness sake! Can't we suspend our humanity when it comes to this issue? And I fear that it is because they look different than the mainstream. You have the poorest people in the hemisphere living next door to the richest nation on earth. Their children are hungry. Of course there has to be a process but we need a process that recognizes that they are part of our continent. We can pay attention to our neighbors for goodness sake." He was accused of changing the topic of the debate.
"You are going to bigger issues when we are just trying to talk about a border," said Fox News host Greg Gutfeld in response to his stance. "This isn't a media story." Rivera again replied.
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