Before Trump administration officials landed this week in Los Angeles on a visit ostensibly aimed at understanding the city’s homelessness crisis, Fox News had been pounding a steady drum beat of fear-mongering about the issue.
President Trump’s new focus on intervening in blue cities — which are home to some of his most vocal political critics — appears driven less by sincere concern about the plight of the poor and more by a desire to find a new vehicle for lobbing criticisms at liberal politicians, as well as immigrants.
Currently, according to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times, Trump officials are looking at ideas — such as cracking down on homelessness camps — that would trample all over federalism and the bill of rights, and not even begin to go at the root causes of extreme poverty.
The campaign bears similarities to Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his smears of cities like Baltimore as being a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Here are 5 points on how the homeless have become Trump’s latest scapegoat.
Fox News Has Gone All In On ‘Covering’ Homelessness As Part Of Its Attacks On The Left
Since May, Fox News has aired 53 segments on California’s homeless population, according to Media Matters.
The coverage has been geared toward bashing the liberal governments where the homelessness numbers have risen, rather than critiquing the Trump administration actions, such as its cuts to housing benefits for the poor, that have exacerbated the crisis.
Beyond Fox News’ smears of liberal politicians as being hypocrites and failures, the commentary has also included some extremely nasty rhetoric towards homeless people themselves — striking a tone similar to how the network has covered migrants from Central America.
The Five co-host Jesse Waters described the homeless as “drugged-out zombies chasing barefooted babies through piles of garbage” and called for “bulldoz[ing]” their communities and “institutionaliz[ing]” them until they “detoxify,” according to Media Matters.
Tucker Carlson, a favorite host of Trump’s, has been particularly focused on the issue, airing a five-day “Homeless in America” series in May during which he harped on “junkies” in San Francisco “shooting up in broad daylight and homeless people wielding makeshift knives.”
Trump Has Echoed Fox News’ Dehumanizing Rhetoric
A feedback loop between Fox News rhetoric on the homeless and Trump’s own claims appears to be underway.
In July, Trump appeared on Carlson’s show, where he discussed the homeless and their “mental problems where they don’t even know they are living that way.”
“In fact, perhaps they like living that way. They can’t do that. We can’t ruin our cities,” he said.
He pointed specifically at “what’s going on with San Francisco.”
“It’s terrible,” Trump said. “So we’re looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up.”
Trump’s Current Gambit Is Both Zany And Legally Dubious
What the Trump administration is currently planning to do to “intercede” and how serious those plans are isn’t totally clear.
But according to the Washington Post, Trump officials have already toured a federal facility in California — formerly used by the Federal Aviation Administration — as a potential site for housing homeless people.
There are a number of legal issues with this kind of plan — from the federalism issues of intervening in a matter solidly under state and local jurisdiction, to the civil rights concerns of the homeless people the Trump administration apparently wants to round up.
Among the Trump administration discussions this week were conversations between the Justice Department and law enforcement unions in Los Angeles about how to get around court orders limiting police sweeps of homeless people, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Trump Is Connecting His Claims About Urban Homelessness To His 2020 Campaign
Trump clearly wants to run against the allegedly “socialist” policies of his presidential opponents and the supposed failure of these policies in liberal cities. Attacking homelessness problems in areas under Democratic control is just one manifestation of that strategy.
His description of blue cities as having “tents” and “horrible, horrible disgusting conditions” have become a staple of his campaign rally shtick.
In a speech at the House GOP’s retreat Thursday, he said Republicans were going to “fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule.” He described a “left-wing agenda of total government domination, crushing regulation, crippling taxes, unrestricted migration and … undermining law enforcement.”
He brought up Los Angeles and San Francisco and promised that “we’re going to have to step in and do something about it because we can’t allow that to happen to our great cities.”
Homelessness Is Explicitly Being Tied To Trump’s Anti-Immigration Platform
Not only are Trump and his allies, in their demonizing of the homeless, using language similar to how they describe immigrants, they’re blaming immigrants themselves and Democrats’ immigrant-friendly policies for causing the homeless problem.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that California was “making a choice” and had decided that “illegals are more important than the people on the streets who obviously need medical attention,” according to Media Matters.
Lou Dobbs of Fox Business Network, another Trump favorite, has claimed that immigrants “should be thrilled” because “they are getting more benefits in many cases than destitute Americans.”
Dobbs’ guest, Michael Goodwin suggested that, “this is very much why Donald Trump won in 2016 — the same dynamics of people putting other countries first.”
Like the trips down to the border Trump and his top officials made when they were trying to make immigration a central issue of the campaign, it appears the administration is looking to similar TV-friendly tactics when it comes to its harping on the homeless crisis.
Trump is heading to San Francisco on Tuesday and Los Angeles on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.