On Saturday, I was horrified to see a segment of the Fox News program, “Cashin’ In,” in which host Eric Bolling and several of his panelists made remarks calling for racial profiling, stigmatization, and, ultimately, violence against Muslims. While I have seen and heard irresponsible, xenophobic, and even racist rhetoric in the American media and on cable news shows, Monday’s segment went far beyond anything I had witnessed in a long time.
During a panel discussion, one of the show’s guests, Jonathan Hoenig stated: “We should have been profiling on September 12, 2001.” He then doubled-down on this sentiment (video below), saying, “The last war this country won, we put Japanese Americans in internment camps; we dropped nuclear bombs on residential city centers. So, yes, profiling would be at least a good start.”
Bolling let Hoenig express these hateful opinions unchecked, despite the fact that Japanese American Internment remains one of the most shameful periods in our nation’s history – a fact acknowledged by the US government in its 1988 apology to the former internees. Bolling and the show’s producers also ignored that such xenophobic and hateful sentiment since 9/11 has led to numerous acts of hate and violence against innocent Americans that were deemed a potential “threat” to the nation, based simply on how they looked, dressed, or worshipped.
By airing these comments without context or criticism, Fox News all but endorsed them. This is especially irresponsible, given the recent spike in hate crimes that has occurred around the country, against Sikh Americans as well as other communities. As we saw after 9/11, and as we saw during World War II, attacks on the United States, as well as military entanglements abroad, can lead to heightened emotions and confusion among the American public. Under these circumstances, people are far quicker to give in to fear and hate, and to lash out at those perceived as different. Remarks like those made on Fox News this Monday greatly exacerbate this risk, and foster an environment where entire communities are far more likely to be subjected to discrimination and violence.
One of the values that we hold dear as Americans is the concept of freedom of expression. The ability of our fellow Americans to express their beliefs freely, without persecution, is one of the things that makes this country unique, and a global leader. However, the right to free speech is not a right to spew hate on national television without question or criticism. When Hoenig spoke out in support of racial profiling, of internment, and of the marginalization of an entire religious community, Bolling had the opportunity, and the obligation, to respond. Sadly, he did not respond, and let Hoenig’s claims go unchallenged. Isn’t that the responsibility that we have entrusted to the media, our nation’s fourth estate? In front of a national television audience, Bolling and Fox News essentially gave tacit support to Hoenig’s xenophobia and hate.
In light of the recent hate crimes that we have seen, against Sikh Americans, Muslim Americans, and so many others, I strongly urge Bolling, Roger Ailes, and the Fox News Network to repudiate Hoenig’s assertions, and to apologize, not only to the Muslim American community, but to Japanese Americans, whose internment during World War II Hoenig explicitly endorsed. By sending the message that groups of Americans, due to their race, religion, national origin, or other background are inherently suspicious, Fox News is fostering an environment of fear, distrust, and ultimately hate. They must rectify this situation immediately.
Jasjit Singh is the Executive Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and has been with the organization since 2009. He currently serves on DHS Secretary’s Faith-Based Initiative and serves on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).
Watch the video: