CBS Again Focuses on Victims in Arizona: ‘Many Feel the Sting of Racism in New Law’

For the second consecutive weeknight, the CBS Evening News on Monday framed Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigrant bill around the fears and charges of its supposed victims. With “ANGER & ANXIETY” on screen below video of signs hostile to the new law (“LAND OF THE FREE! REALLY?” and a Swastika sign with “Achtung! Papers Please”), Katie Couric teased: “Anger in Arizona against a new law allowing police to make you prove you’re in the country legally” – followed by a man who impugned supporters: “They’re just focusing on us because we’re brown.”

Couric soon set up CBS’s story by relaying how “opponents say it will lead to racial profiling” as she didn’t pass judgment on their vandalism when she reported “some of those opponents vandalized the state capitol building, smearing refried beans in the shape of swastikas on the windows.” (Talk about fulfilling a stereotype)

John Blackstone presented arguments in favor of the law, but delivered his story through the eyes of sympathetic, if misinformed, people who see themselves as victims. “Kym Rivera brought her children to a demonstration today against Arizona's new immigration law. Her husband, born in El Salvador was sworn in as a citizen last October,” but “she fears he'll become a suspect when police are searching for illegal immigrants under the new law.” She baselessly asserted: “He worries he'll be asked to leave this country because he was not born here. That he'll be separated from his children, from his wife of 15 years.”

Blackstoned moved on to “19-year-old Junior Perez,” the same guy in the opening tease, who “has heard the assurances that the law is aimed only at illegal immigrants. He's not convinced,” and, corroborating his fear, Blackstone insisted that “in a state where more than 30 percent of the population is Hispanic, many feel the sting of racism in the new law.” Perez charged: “They’re just focusing on us because we're brown. So, it's just devastating.”

My NB item on Friday’s CBS newscast, “CBS Frames Arizona’s Anti-Illegal Alien Law Through Eyes of Opponents: ‘Veto Racism,’” recounted:
Arizona’s new law hardly earned a friendly reception Friday night from any of the network newscasts, but CBS went the furthest in presenting it from the perspective of its “victims” as anchor Katie Couric, over video of “Veto Racism” and “Stop the Hate” signs, teased: “Tonight, Arizona's controversial new immigration law. Police will now be able to make anyone they choose prove they're here illegally. It triggers demonstrations by both sides and a warning from President Obama.” (Presumably, she meant “prove they’re here legally.”)

Reporter Bill Whitaker suddenly found wisdom in the Catholic Church, plastering “mean-spirited” on screen: “In Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the country's largest Catholic archdiocese, called the law ‘mean-spirited’ and compared it to Nazi repression. Today at a ceremony for new citizens, President Obama criticized Arizona's actions.”
From the Monday, April 26 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Turning now to Arizona's controversial new immigration law which empowers the police to stop and ask anyone for documents to prove they're in the country legally. Opponents say it will lead to racial profiling. Today, some of those opponents vandalized the state capitol building, smearing refried beans in the shape of swastikas on the windows. From Phoenix, here's John Blackstone.

JOHN BLACKSTONE: Kym Rivera brought her children to a demonstration today against Arizona's new immigration law. Her husband, born in El Salvador was sworn in as a citizen last October.

RIVERA: He became a citizen of the United States. That's their dream.

BLACKSTONE: But she fears he'll become a suspect when police are searching for illegal immigrants under the new law.

RIVERA: He worries he'll be asked to leave this country because he was not born here. That he'll be separated from his children, from his wife of 15 years. Why should my husband worry?

BLACKSTONE: He shouldn't worry, says Steve Montenegro, himself an immigrant from El Salvador and now a member of the state legislature. Montenegro voted for the controversial immigration law which he says opponents are distorting.

STATE REP STEVE MONTENEGRO: That it that it is a race issue, an anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant bill and that couldn't be farther from the truth.

BLACKSTONE: What the bill does, he says, is give police another tool to fight crime that comes with the flood across the border.

MONTENEGRO: It's going crazy here and the federal government has time and again failed tremendously to protect itself citizens and secure the border.

BLACKSTONE: Arizona Senator John McCain echoed that when he responded to criticism of the state law in Washington.

SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON SENATE FLOOR: If you don't like the bill, the legislation that the legislature passed and the governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities which are to secure the border.

BLACKSTONE: 19-year-old Junior Perez has heard the assurances that the law is aimed only at illegal immigrants. He's not convinced.

JUNIOR PEREZ: If I'm a citizen or not, I'm always going to be Mexican.

BLACKSTONE: He is a citizen, born in Arizona. His parents legal immigrants from Mexico. In a state where more than 30 percent of the population is Hispanic, many feel the sting of racism in the new law.

PEREZ: They’re just focusing on us because we're brown. So, it's just devastating.

BLACKSTONE: While opponents of the law promise to continue demonstrating, the battle moves into the court. Legal challenges will be based under the argument that under the Constitution only the federal government has the right to control immigration. John Blackstone, CBS News, Phoenix.
CBSNews.com online version of this story.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center