Fox News CEO Roger Ailes believes he can help Republicans win over Latinos because he says that President Barack Obama “is busy trying to get everybody to hate each other” and “we need to get along.”
In an interview with the New Republic that was published on Monday, Ailes explained that Fox News was the network that could help Republicans outreach to Latinos.
“The president likes to divide people into groups,” Ailes said. “He’s too busy getting the middle class to hate rich people, blacks to hate whites. He is busy trying to get everybody to hate each other… We need to get along.”
“The fact is, we have a lot — Republicans have a lot more opportunity for [Latinos],” he insisted. “If I’m going to risk my life to run over the fence to get into America, I want to win. I think Fox News will articulate that.”
But Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s loss of almost 50 points among Latinos was not helped by the fact that Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity continued to use the term “illegals” — which many consider to be a slur — throughout the election season.
“I’m not stopping it,” Hannity said in response to a “Drop the I-Word” campaign in May. “Illegal immigrant! Illegal!”
“If illegals are so upset about the term ‘illegal,’ why don’t they return to their country, apply for a visa and then come back legally,” Fox News guest Michelle Fields advised. “And then we won’t call them illegals.”
And Hannity recently told the New Republic‘s Eliza Gray that he would continue to use the word even as his network courts Latinos.
“I’m not committing a hate crime by saying ‘illegal aliens’ are just that,” the Fox News host insisted. “I’ve used ‘illegals’ all these years I’ve been on TV… I don’t see it as an offensive term.”
Fox News launched the Fox News Latino website in 2010, but the network often undercuts its own message.
Media Matters noted last year that the more-conservative Fox Nation website had taken a Fox News Latino headline about Obama halting deportations for “undocumented children” and re-titled it as “Obama Administration Bypasses Congress, to Give Immunity, Stop Deporting Younger Illegals.”
The Fox Nation headline was accompanied by a photo of Latino men in handcuffs.
“Republicans haven’t used the right language… I think the word ‘illegal immigration’ is a false name,” Ailes opined in the recent New Republic interview. “You are talking about two separate issues. One is sovereignty. . . . The media trying to make America feel guilty because we want borders—that, to me, is complete bullshit. Immigration is a separate issue. . . . We should all defend sovereignty, then take a Judeo-Christian approach to immigration. I don’t have any problem with a path to citizenship.”
“Fox News Latino will show people how opportunities exist, that whenever we are overregulated, or there is too much government, we lose freedom. We lose power. That is, historically, one hundred percent true,” he added. “I happen to think that the Latino audience is an essentially traditional audience and will go to Fox News for traditional American values.”
The Fox News CEO said that he may also eventually include a 24-hour video stream targeted at Latinos, but he didn’t want to give too many details to his competition.
“I don’t want to get into strategic thinking on this,” he said. “If these dumb bastards invent their own channel, I’m not going to help them.”
Daily Beast media critic Howard Kurtz observed that Ailes had damaged his own message by claiming that Obama wanted “blacks to hate whites.”
“What in Obama’s record casts him as a racially divisive leader?” Kurtz wondered. “[W]hat’s certain to make headlines is not Ailes’s positive message, but his blast at Obama for turning Americans against each other.”
Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988 was forced to deny that an ad created by Ailes had racist overtones. Rev. Jesse Jackson and other supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis had suggested that the ad was inciting racial fear because it focused on the furlough of an African-American prisoner named Willie Horton, who later raped a white woman.
Ailes seemed to be aware of the controversial nature of the ad at the time, joking to a reporter that the “only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand – or without it.”