Last night, viewers of Comedy Central's The Colbert Reportwere treated to the tale of Fox News' hysterical hyping of a plan to house unaccompanied child migrants from Central America at a Texas motel that was to be converted to a shelter. Colbert focused on the gap between Fox News' luxurious descriptions of the motel, and the reality of negative reviews featuring green pools and cockroaches. As sickening as it is, this is only part of the story.
The short version of this story is that the Palm Aire Hotel and Suites in Weslaco, Texas, was to be sold to the non-profit Baptist Child & Family Services, which was going to turn it into a facility to shelter some of the unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who have flooded our border seeking refuge from harm in Central America. Conservative media online toilet Gateway Pundit got word of the plan and lied their asses off about it, then Fox News lied even more loudly about it, and BCFS was forced to scrap the plan.
Several other websites, mainly citing the work of Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, have great backstory on how this turd made its way through the wingnut digestive tract, but I'd like to focus on how Fox News covered the story. Viewers of The Colbert Report might get the idea that Fox News was merely exaggerating or misleading its viewers, when the reality is much, much worse. Here's how the story was first reported by Fox News "hard news" correspondent William La Jeunesse (that's right, folks, the Fox News reporter who promoted this pack of lies is literally named Bill The Youth):
Before we unpack the lies, though, we need a little bit of housekeeping. While the luxurious descriptions offered up by Fox News are clearly exaggerations, and ignore the fact that the hotel would have been converted into a facility featuring such luxuries as a "perimeter fence," the meat of this story should not depend on the actual shittiness of the hotel. In the interest of full disclosure, the overwhelming majority of the Palm Aire's TripAdvisor reviews are positive. On the other hand, those positive reviews are by people who think that this is the "Best Breakfast Ever!!!"
I look forward to Sandra's review of the local cardiac ICU.
Shittiness of the hotel notwithstanding, let's unpack the lies in this bit of reporting:
Gretchen Carlson: "A three-star hotel could be taking some of those children in."
Lie: This is a smallish lie. Obviously, if the plan had succeeded, no children would have been taken in by a hotel, but by a hotel converted into a shelter.
Bill The Youth: "It's about to become a $50 million resort for 600 illegal immigrants."
Lie: The hotel was to be sold for $3.8 million, not $50 million.
Bill the Youth: "Owned and operated by BCFS under a federal contract." (this would morph into a "$50 million federal contract" in subsequent reports)
Lie: The hotel was to be purchased with private funds, and there is no contract for this specific facility. Although BCFS does receive federal money, in addition to private charitable donations, but it is a global organization.
So, where did that $50 million figure come from? As LGFpoints out, that figure is an estimate of the annual economic impact of the project on the community. To put it another way, Fox News reported that the project was going to cost $50 million dollars, when it was actually going to make the community $50 million a year.
That's not the worst part, though. After repetitions of these lies across other Fox News programs, both "hard news" and "opinion," Bill The Youth finally had some "good" news to report to Fox News viewers: The plan was scrapped. Here's how he broke that news to Sean Hannity:
There are two stunningly shitty things that Bill The Youth did there. You might not have noticed it, but now that those little kids have been denied a place to wait for their resettlement, Bill finally decides to accurately report the sale price for the hotel (well, almost accurately: he rounds up to $4 million), while still rolling out that completely fabricated $50 million figure.
But for sheer gutless, cowardly awfulness, you really can't beat Bill's reporting on why the deal fell apart, "because of quote 'negative backlash'."
The "quote"that he's "quoting" from is a press release by BCFS, which explains the quote "negative backlash" in more detail:
As a result of the negative backlash caused by information misreported to the public, BCFS Health and Human Services has made the decision to withdraw its proposal to establish a 600-bed facility for unaccompanied minors in Weslaco, Texas.
...This proposal sought to find a solution for providing safe, humane care for the children flooding across the border and overwhelming U.S. Border Patrol and communities. BCFS is thankful to the City of Weslaco for their consideration and support, and is disappointed that misinformation has fueled so much negativity against this effort that its success is likely jeopardized.
That's right, folks, Fox News even lies when it's reporting on the successful results of its previous lies.
All of this might actually be funny if it weren't for the fact that these lies have done tangible harm to children who have already faced the threat of harm to come here, and face that threat anew once they get here.