The nation's largest organization of Hispanic journalists cut ties with Fox News, with its president calling out the right-leaning network's perpetuation of disinformation about the Hispanic and Latino communities in relation to its immigration coverage.
The decision will cost the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) financially, since Fox News was one of the sponsors of its upcoming conference in San Antonio.
The organization published a letter to its members Thursday stating that it would return the nearly $17,000 it had received from Fox News for its conference scheduled for September in response to comments Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes has made about immigrants.
"Starnes unapologetically states that America has 'suffered' from the 'invasion of a rampaging hoard of illegal aliens,’ claiming that most 'illegal immigrants' are violent criminals, as well as casually using a reference for their immigration to the United States with the Nazis invading France and Western Europe in World War II," NAHJ President Huge Balta wrote in a letter to his group's members.
Balta, who works as a senior producer at MSNBC, said the network's decision to use words such as "army" and "invasion" when discussing immigration is "irresponsible" and "criminalizes a community and broadens the national divide incited by the president's incesst negative rhetoric."
Balta referred to the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 22 people and injured dozens more after publishing a manifesto decrying a "Hispanic invasion of Texas."
"Starnes’ brazen language is symptomatic of a culture that provides a megaphone for disinformation by those in power with agendas, including the Trump administration at the cost of the most vulnerable — immigrant communities," he wrote. "While alarming, the situation with Starnes is not an isolated incident and follows years of ongoing NAHJ conversations with Fox News and recent meetings with management."
"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," he continued.
Balta called on the group's co-conference partners — the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association — to also return the sponsorship money they received from Fox News, but "they refused, opting instead to give Fox News a larger platform to discuss what they label as a 'teachable moment.' "
He noted the decision by NAHJ is "directed to Fox News management and in no way towards NAHJ members employed by the media company” and pledged to "continue to engage Fox News management in the hope of improvement.”
Marsheila Hayes, the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Fox News, called NAHJ's decision "unfortunate."
"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 said in a statement. "We are proud of our inclusive team and this achievements in journalism."
The NAHJ's decision to cut ties with Fox News mirrors one made earlier this year by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
DNC Chairman Tom Perez announced in March that Fox News would not be allowed to broadcast any of its 2020 presidential primary debates because of the network's close ties to the Trump administration, which he called "inappropriate."
"The network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates," Perez said at the time.