Flagship anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is once again trying to inundate the radio airwaves with nativist sentiment.
Today marks the beginning of Hold Their Feet to the Fire, FAIR’s annual media event that brings together over 50 talk radio hosts to broadcast from Washington, D.C. The two-day event is held at the Phoenix Park Hotel.
In addition to providing broadcast equipment, FAIR also arranges myriad potential guests from across the country for the radio hosts. These include leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, nativist allies in Congress and law enforcement, and a select few activists FAIR invites—all with the goal of advancing draconian and deeply racist anti-immigrant policies.
Now in its eleventh year, FAIR’s flagship event is taking a different tone. And it has the Trump administration to thank for that.
Unlike previous years, when talkers on FAIR’s radio row spent hours assailing President Obama’s immigration policies, the White House is no longer a target. Promotional materials sent to radio hosts even utilize the President’s unoriginal “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“Yes, we’re on a good path, but his election and early actions are only opportunities; they are not victories in and of themselves,” the invitation also reads. “The president needs our support because all the usual special interests will oppose, obstruct and attempt to delay and derail everything in sight.”
Ironically, for years the purpose of Hold Their Feet to the Fire was to specifically “oppose, obstruct and attempt to delay and derail everything in sight.” Particularly, a meaningful, bipartisan immigration reform measure in 2013 that the U.S. Senate passed a few weeks after FAIR’s 2013 event.
While FAIR may now be assuming the role of cheerleader, rather than nativist attack dog, its commitment to promoting fringe ideas and figures remains.
Perhaps nothing evidences this more than FAIR once again inviting anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney to broadcast from the event. In a brief blog previewing today’s event, FAIR listed Gaffney as one of the nationally syndicated hosts broadcasting from the event. While on FAIR’s radio row in 2014, Gaffney and the nativist Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discussed the phantom threat of U.S. courts imposing Shariah Law—a blatant conspiracy theory that not only demonizes Muslims, but indicates a significant misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution.
Over the years FAIR’s event has also evolved from a grassroots citizen lobbying effort featuring scores of anti-immigrant activists from across the country meeting lawmakers on Capitol Hill to an invitation-only media event. Tellingly, despite the event’s exclusive nature, white nationalists have still been welcomed by FAIR in recent years.
Gaffney’s presence indicates Hold Their Feet to the Fire is still a safe space for such extremist factions. Whether it’s primarily directing vitriol or praise towards the White House, FAIR continues to demonstrate Hold Their Feet to the Fire is little more than a platform for broadcast bigotry.