Media Matters for America
June 17, 2010
Washington, DC - Today, after Fox News and the Fox Nation falsely suggested that President Obama was giving a "major strip" of land in Arizona "back to Mexico," Media Matters for America issued an open letter to Fox News Senior Vice President Michael Clemente asking that, as promised in the "quality control" memo Fox News management issued to staff, "immediate disciplinary action" be taken.
"Michael Clemente cannot simply ignore this on-air error like he has so many others," said Ari Rabin-Havt, Vice President for Research and Communications at Media Matters. "This was one of the most deliberately misleading reports I've ever seen on Fox News."
Added Rabin-Havt: "This is not a quality control problem. This is a journalistic ethics problem. And if Fox News doesn't correct this, it will prove that it has none."
Rabin-Havt has sent five previous letters about such "mistakes" but has yet to receive a response. He sent today's letter after Bonnie Swarbrick, the public information officer for the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, exclusively told Media Matters that Fox's claims were "totally false" and the notion that America had given the land back to Mexico is "ludicrous."
The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Clemente:
I am writing to you to demand that you correct a glaring error made both on Fox News and on Fox's website The Fox Nation.
The Fox Nation used the preposterous headline "Obama Gives Back Major Strip of AZ to Mexico" to trumpet a report about a closure of land in a national wildlife refuge in Arizona. During that America Live report, guest host Shannon Bream stated: "A massive stretch of Arizona now off limits to Americans. Critics say the administration is, in effect, giving a major strip of the Southwest back to Mexico."
But according to Bonnie Swarbrick, who is the public information officer for the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, the "massive stretch" of land is about five miles square, it's been closed since 2006, and it obviously hasn't been given back to Mexico.
Swarbrick told Media Matters that the area in the refuge bordering Mexico was "closed in 2006 during the construction of a vehicle barrier." Work on the vehicle barrier progressed into the construction of a 12-foot fence along the part of the refuge that borders Mexico, which is about seven miles long. The area has been kept closed "to allow the Border Patrol to do their work," she said. Swarbrick added that the small strip of land that is closed makes up "less than 0.03 percent" of the refuge and said that the rest of the reserve is still open to the public.
However, the on-screen map that Fox News used during the report suggested a far different scenario:
The map suggests that the red outline indicates the closed area, but only the area of the refuge along the U.S.-Mexico border is actually closed
As for the Fox Nation headline, Swarbrick called it "totally false" and said the notion that America had given the land back to Mexico is "ludicrous."
I'll remind you once again of the quality control memo your network issued in November. The memo assured that "mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the 'mistake chain.' " I would assume that the memo would also apply to Fox Nation, a website that Fox News has promoted with advertisements telling viewers that "[i]t's time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech."
I have written you on five previous occasions about errors on your network, and I have yet to see any "immediate disciplinary action" take place. In this particular case, on-air and online corrections, at the very least, are necessary.
Vice President for Communications and Research
Media Matters for America