The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the largest organization of Hispanic journalists in the US, has severed ties with Fox News because of the network’s insistence on spreading misinformation about undocumented immigrants and Hispanics.
Hugo Balta, the organization’s president, announced in a letter on August 22 the decision to drop Fox News as a sponsor for the upcoming Excellence in Journalism (EIJ19) conference in San Antonio, Texas.
“Major news outlets have always held value in simply reporting the facts, without bias, in order for the public to then take those facts and form their own opinions and perspectives,” Balta wrote. “If the news is given to the public with an underlying opinion, it can influence the viewership to think in the same way.”
Balta said he came to the decision to cut ties with Fox News after radio host Todd Starnes made prejudiced comments toward Latinx immigrants and passed them off as opinionated commentary. The comments were made less than two weeks after the deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which targeted Latinx immigrants, killed 22 people, and left dozens injured.
Starnes claimed the US has “suffered” from the “invasion of a rampaging hoard of illegal aliens.” He also claimed most “illegal immigrants” are violent criminals while suggesting that immigration by Latinx people was similar to the Nazis invading France in World War II.
When NAHJ reached out to Fox News management to complain about the anti-immigrant rhetoric, Fox reportedly responded with expressions of “regret” but nothing else. Balta, a senior producer at MSNBC, accused Fox News of crossing the line between commentary and journalism so long ago that it “is no longer even in sight.”
“As a journalism organization, championing the fair and accurate treatment of Hispanics, Latinos in newsrooms and news coverage — we cannot allow others to ‘shelf’ lies under the pretext of exercising their First Amendment right,” Balta wrote.
He continued: “To accept financial support from an entity that perpetuates the spread of disinformation to the public about the Hispanic and Latino community risks the integrity and credibility of NAHJ’s 35 year mission. To sit silently by is, in essence to be complicit in the act itself.”
Marsheila Hayes, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Fox Corporation, said in a statement to The North Star that it was regrettable that NAHJ decided to cut ties with the network.
“It is unfortunate the country’s main organization for Hispanic journalists has chosen to exclude Fox News from their upcoming convention,” Hayes said. “As the leading news network in the country, we are committed to fostering a diverse and collaborative workplace environment, and have been recognized in the industry for our advancement in this area, most notably with our multimedia reporter program.”
Hayes added, “We are proud of our inclusive team and their achievements in journalism.”
NAHJ will return $16,666 to Fox News, Balta said. The organization said it reached out to its co-conference partners, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), to join in giving Fox News their $16,666 share of the $50,000 sponsorship, but both groups refused.
The organizations instead decided “to give Fox News a larger platform to discuss what they label as a ‘teachable moment.’”
In a statement on August 22, SPJ said it stands by NAHJ in condemning the “vile anti-immigrant commentary” by the Fox News host but would not rescind the invitation to Fox to be a sponsor of EIJ19. The group said immigration coverage will be one of the topics discussed at the conference.
“We condemn the unacceptable comments by the Fox contributor, however, as a press freedom organization, we must defend the spirit of free speech inherent in the First Amendment,” J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, said in a statement. “Although it is unfortunate when the principle of free speech collides with the basic moral standards of civil debate, we will not exclude any media organization from the Excellence in Journalism conference based on their commentators’ points of view.”
In his letter, Balta said he would continue to engage with Fox News management. “When they demonstrate real change and a true sincerity for their partnership with our association, we will revisit discussions of further financial support and sponsorship.”
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.