Fox News hosts have insinuated without evidence on at least two occasions that the migrant caravan of thousands of people traveling from Central America to the United States may be carrying "diseases."
The remarks are among several pieces of unverified misinformation spreading about the caravan.
“It's a health issue too because we don't know what people have coming in here,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said on her show on Tuesday, Oct. 23. “We have diseases in this country we haven't had for decades,” she continued.
And during a segment on the caravan on Monday morning — while discussing what percentage of the migrants, who are seeking asylum in the US, may be engaged in “narco-trafficking” — cohost Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends interjected and asked, “What about diseases?”
“There’s a reason why you can’t bring your kid to school unless he’s inoculated,” Kilmeade continued before talking about how much US taxpayers give to “social programs.”
“Is it too much to say we just can't have countries, entire populations, come in here without being looked at as hard-hearted?” Kilmeade said.
Later on Monday, David Ward, a former ICE agent and guest of Fox News, also brought up nation of disease and the caravan, stating, "And they're coming in with diseases such as small pox and leprosy and T.B. that are gonna affect our people in the United States."
Later in the hour, host Charles Payne issued an on-air clarification: "Earlier in this hour, one of our guests said some of the people in the caravan may have diseases like leprosy and T.B. We have no way of independently confirming this. We wanted to clarify that point for you."
Two days after Ingraham's comments on diseases, far-right outlet Breitbart amplified the topic on its daily satellite radio show, running an article on its website entitled, “Medical Expert: Migrant Caravan Could Pose Public Health Threat.” The medical expert interviewed was Dr. Jan Orient, the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. According to a 2011 article in The New York Times, Dr. Orient said the organization was formed "to fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.”
Other medical associations have said the group's "positions are unrepresentative of most of the nation’s 800,000 physicians and that its scientific views often fall outside medicine’s mainstream," the Times stated.
While the spread of infectious diseases due to a large number of border crossings is a concern, according to the Center for Disease Control, the federal health agency states that refugees, "are not required to meet the INA immunization requirements before entry into the United States."
PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact checking organization, tackled this very question, asking in 2015. Experts contacted about the issue, including Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that this is so."
"No study or survey shows this. There is no outbreak or bump in disease attributable to immigrants," Caplan said.
The mention of diseases comes after numerous incorrect, unsubstantiated, or flat-out false claims and conspiracies about the caravan have appeared in recent weeks.
A representative for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Oct. 22, President Trump tweeted that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” among the caravan of around 7,000 people, two-thirds of whom are thought to be women and children.
“Take your camera, go into the middle [of the caravan], and search. You're going to find MS-13; you're going to find Middle Eastern [sic]; you're going to find everything,” the president later told reporters.
When pressed on his comments the following day, Trump later admitted that there was “no proof” that people from the Middle East were part of the group.
“There's no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything,” he said in the Oval Office, but later added, “But there very well could be.”