Tea Party Leader’s Support For Immigration Reform Is Ignored By Fox News

From its inception, the Tea Party has been adamantly opposed to comprehensive immigration reform proposals that they regard as amnesty, despite the fact that the actual bills on the table explicitly prohibit it. The reality is that the fringy Tea-publicans are more interested in battering President Obama and preventing Democrats from being able to claim credit for a legislative achievement that a majority of the American people support. Additionally, the conservative mission has never been friendly to people of color and they aren’t about to start welcoming Latinos into their constituent base now.

So it comes as some surprise that a prominent leader of the Tea Party is advocating for immigration reform in a very public way. Sal Russo, the founder of Tea Party express, authored an op-ed for Roll Call titled “Conservatives Need to Fix the Broken U.S. Immigration System.” In the article Russo makes a plea to his conservative comrades that reform represents an opportunity for growth that they must seize in order to “reaffirm who we are and what makes our country great.” He says that…

“…we face debilitating workforce challenges as well. Visa limits for seasonal workers, such as those needed by farmers, cannot keep up with demand. And those visas that are available are too cumbersome, complex and cost prohibitive for many employers to use. That means fewer fruits and vegetables per season, lost revenue and an increased reliance on imports, many of which are not subject to the same level of health regulations as our homegrown crops.”

It’s encouraging to hear the head of a leading Tea Party group speak out in support of reform. But Russo went farther than that in observing that imported products are not “subject to the same level of health regulations” as those produced here. He is making a case for the benefits of regulations, something that Tea Party conservatives have long demonized as the bane of Big Government.

For the record, Russo’s role in the Tea Party movement is not without controversy. He has been accused of exploiting it for personal gain. Research shows that large portions of the money raised by his Tea Party Express is funneled right back into his own pocket via payments to his consulting firm. Nevertheless, he is still respected within the movement and is a frequent spokesman for its cause.

In the past, Fox News has been an active participant in the Tea Party movement. They openly praised its objectives and candidates, and they even helped to rally support for their public events. The network directly asked its viewers to board the Tea Party Express, and assigned correspondent Griff Jenkins to ride along on their bus tours.

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Now, for some reason, Fox News has been conspicuously silent about this pro-immigration editorial by a group they once proudly supported. They haven’t asked Russo to appear on any of their programs to discuss his position. Nor have they interviewed any of the other conservatives with whom Russo is mounting this campaign. They include Grover Norquist, the American Conservative Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose president said that Republicans “shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016” if they don’t pass immigration reform this year.

It isn’t really difficult to figure out the reason that Fox is ignoring this story. In fact, the reason is there in black and white in Russo’s op-ed:

“[W]e need to make the 11 million people who are here illegally obey the law, pay taxes and come out of the shadows. We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty. This should include penalties, background checks to root out criminals, and the requirement that they learn English, understand the Constitution and be committed to our basic freedoms. We must ensure there is no special pathway to citizenship that puts them in front of people who waited in line.”

That is pretty much exactly the language used in the Democratic immigration reform bill that has already been passed in the Senate. But GOP House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring that bill up for a vote in the House even though, by all accounts, it would receive enough bipartisan votes to easily pass. Boehner is afraid of the far-right members of his caucus and the possibility that they will abandon him during the next vote for Speaker.

As for Fox News, they are simply unwilling to reverse course to support reform when it is anathema to their corporate bosses including, especially, Fox CEO Roger Ailes. In the end, the only opinion that matters on Fox is that of Ailes. As with issues like climate change, marriage equality, and rigidly hawkish foreign policy, immigration reform is one of those subjects that is never even given the veneer of fairness and balance to which Fox pretends. So even though Russo is an important figure in the Tea Party movement, he is now persona non grata at Fox. Don’t hold your breath waiting to see him or his viewpoint on air.

Has The Tea Party Gone Cold?

An article today in The Hill has collected some evidence of the fading influence of the Tea Party. The author, Josh Lederman, leads off the column with the declarative statement that “The Tea Party is falling to pieces.” He then goes on to enumerate the reasons for that assessment, including:

  • It’s hard to imagine a GOP presidential candidate Tea Partiers could dislike more than Mitt Romney.
  • Support for the Tea Party is ebbing across the country, according to a November 2011 study by the Pew Research Center.
  • Headed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), members of the House in 2010 formed a Tea Party caucus [that] has sat largely dormant.
  • The Republican establishment […] has discovered just how difficult it is to govern when a major part of its base places its allegiance elsewhere.
  • There were more than 83,000 mentions of the Tea Party in the news media in 2010; that number dropped to 32,000 in 2011 (Also 970,000 Tea Party mentions in social media in 2011, compared to 8.5 million for Occupy Wall Street).
  • In congressional races [the Tea Party is] struggling against establishment Republicans in 2012 primary races.

While all of that is true, I have just one little squabble with Lederman: There is no such thing as the Tea Party and there never has been!

There are no Tea Party candidates; no Tea Party voters; no Tea Party committees; no Tea Party nominating conventions. Nothing. Every poll taken on the subject reveals that nearly all of those who associate themselves with the alleged Tea Party are Republicans. Every candidate that the Tea Party has supported is a Republican. And only Republicans ever bother to solicit Tea Party support. The Tea Party is merely a fringe faction of disgruntled Republicans elevated by GOP lobbyists and conservative media. It is telling that the Tea Party spokesperson quoted in the article was Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express (TPE). Russo runs the GOP PR firm that created TPE and once told New York Magazine that “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.”

Other than that small omission, the Hill’s article was great.