President Donald Trump’s favorite cable-news program has wasted no time going to bat for the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
Over Father’s Day weekend, the hosts of Fox & Friends—the Fox News flagship morning show—took turns defending Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, describing the family separations as an uncomfortable but necessary way to deter illegal immigration.
“Criminals are separated from their kids every day in the United States of America,” co-host Steve Doocy declared Monday morning.
“We do have sympathy for those parents—who wouldn’t? You don’t want a parent to be separated from their child,” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said. “But you’re right: If they make the choice to do it, there will be consequences.”
On both Fox & Friends and its weekend counterpart, the hosts reserved more outrage for how the media and critics describe the policy than for the cruel separation policy itself.
During one Monday morning segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that Democrats and conservative opponents of the child-separation policy—including former First Lady Laura Bush—have been overdramatic in comparing the detention centers to prison camps like the ones the U.S. government forced Japanese-Americans into during World War II.
“A lot of Democrats are using this as an opportunity to grandstand,” Kilmeade said after claiming liberals were “blowing the whole thing out of proportion to act like the president is anti-children.”
Other hosts got pedantic, deflecting from the policy itself by admonishing reporters for using too harsh a descriptor to diagnose what goes on at the detention camps.
Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth, for example, slammed former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele for calling the detention facilities “concentration camps.” The detention facilities, Hegseth argued, are actually a welcome change for the immigrant children.
“One man’s concentration camp, according to Michael Steele, is another man’s shelter,” Hegseth said Saturday morning. “These kids are going in, they’re being taken care of by our government, are being fed, clothed, provided for, helped to contact their parents, to be reunited.”
That same morning, co-host Abby Huntsman did suggest the separation policy was “not sustainable,” but, like her colleague, immediately pivoted to bashing the media for its coverage of the facilities. “They’re not in cages, they’re not being gassed,” she said of the immigrant children.
Doocy similarly dwelled on semantics. On Monday morning, he went out of his way to label the cages where some immigrant children were held as “security pen[s].”
“While some have likened them to concentration camps or cages, you do see that they have those thermal blankets, you do see some fencing,” Doocy explained. “Some have referred to them as ‘cages,’ but keep in mind: This is a great, big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain-link fences.”
Fox & Friends also allowed the administration to repeatedly and falsely place blame for the policy on the Democrats, rather than mention how White House itself—including senior adviser Stephen Miller—concocted the “zero-tolerance” policy to send a message that “no one is exempt from immigration law.”
According to television-monitoring service TVEyes, Fox & Friends has only referred once to Miller effectively taking credit for the policy change.
However, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s claim that the administration does “not have a policy of separating families at the border”—a claim she contradicted mere hours later—was aired repeatedly as vindication for the Trump position.
Fox & Friends did feature some voices critical of the policy, however, including Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a frequent defender of Trump, who appeared Monday and advocated for ending the policy. But he was outnumbered by multiple guests and hosts who ardently backed up Trump’s policies and dismissed questions about the conditions within the detention centers.
“It’s not inhuman treatment,” said guest Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son was killed by a drunk driver who was an undocumented immigrant. “What would a homeless American child or a homeless veteran do to have those kind of facilities and three square meals?”
—Additional reporting by Andrew Kirell.