MALDEF

Dobbs, FOX News, and Drudge Report Push False AP Story

(Thanks to Media Matters for America for catching this series of stories)

On January 29, 2009, Associated Press staff writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis, released the article “Hill Republican: Stimulus aids illegal immigrants” where the false assertion was made that the Stimulus package would provide money for undocumented immigrants:
The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday.1
Shortly after its publication, the story gained a lot of public attention by the conservative news site The Drudge Report, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, and FOX News.  Hours after the false claim was retracted by the AP (3:02 p.m. ET), these “news organizations” repeated it nonetheless. The Drudge Report kept the link to the uncorrected AP story up for 4 hours.2  Dobbs made the claim at 5:27 pm ET.3  FOX News repeated the claim at 6:09 pm ET, and then again at 8:16 pm ET on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor.4
As it turned out, the one single anonymous source was later withdrawn and the article was rewritten to show the information provided by that source had been false:
A senior GOP congressional official expressed concern Thursday that the bill could steer government checks to undocumented workers, but in fact the measure prevents anyone without a Social Security number from claiming tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple.5
Stories like these tend to instigate anti-immigration sentiments given the controversial topic, and Fox News, Lou Dobbs, and the Drudge Report only add fuel to the fire.  The point is simple: pushing false information has the lasting consequences on the image of immigrants, and those perceived to be foreign.  Ineffectively informing the public about two important issues, immigration and the economy, will only strengthen the tensions amongst the various ideologies debating these topics.
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1. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Hill Republican: Stimulus aids illegal immigrants," Associated Press, 29 Jan 2009
2. "For four hours after AP correction, Drudge flogged false claim about undocumented immigrants," Media Matters for America, 29 Jan 2009
3. "Will Dobbs retract his stimulus bill falsehood?" Media Matters for America, 30 Jan 2009
4."AP's retracted stimulus bill falsehood finds a new home at Fox, Media Matters for America," 30 Jan 2009
5. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Stimulus seeks to bar illegals from tax credit," Associated Press, 29 Jan 2009

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund