A prominent Hispanic journalist organization rescinded Fox News’ sponsorship of an upcoming national conference and denounced the conservative news organization for promoting racism.
The president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said the organization would return the $16,666 that Fox News gave NAHJ to sponsor the conference.
“The line between commentary and journalism was crossed long ago by Fox News and is no longer even in sight,” NAHJ President Hugo Balta said in a statement on Thursday.
“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 added.
Balta also said he asked the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association, who are partnering with NAHJ on the conference, to return their shares of Fox News’ sponsorship money for the event, but they refused.
NAHJ’s decision to rescind Fox News’ sponsorship stems from racist remarks Fox News radio host Todd Starnes made last week, comparing Hispanic immigrants to a Nazi invasion.
On his eponymous radio show, Starnes said immigrants were “invading” the U.S. after mentioning the horrific mass shooting that took 22 lives in El Paso, Texas. The suspected gunman has been linked to a manifesto targeting Latinos.
“We have been invaded by a horde, a rampaging horde, of illegal aliens,” Starnes said, adding, “I believe that’s a fair description of what we have suffered here in this country.”
“When you go back in time and when you look at what an invasion is, whether it’s the Nazis invading France and Western Europe, whether the Muslims were invading a country back in the early years. It was an invasion,” Starnes continued.
Balta said the Fox News host’s comments were alarming but “not an isolated incident,” noting “ongoing NAHJ conversations with Fox News and recent meetings with management.”
“Starnes’ comments came less than two weeks after the mass shooting in El Paso, not only used the words of the suspected gunman such as ‘invasion’, tired slurs illegal aliens, illegals…but likened immigrants to Nazis,” Balta wrote.
Balta also noted that his outrage was directed at Fox News’ management and pointed out that there are Fox News employees who are NAHJ members.
Marsheila Hayes, Fox News’ vice president of diversity and inclusion, said NAHJ’s decision was “unfortunate” in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“It is unfortunate the country’s main organization for Hispanic journalists has chosen to exclude FOX News from their upcoming convention,” Hayes said.
“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,” the statement continued. “We are proud of our inclusive team and their achievements in journalism.”
SPJ’s board of directors clarified later Thursday that Fox News is still “one of many sponsors of the conference,” though it is no longer sponsoring NAHJ.
“We condemn the unacceptable comments by the Fox contributor, however, as a press freedom organization, we must defend the spirit of free speech inherent in the First Amendment,” SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio said in a statement.
An RTDNA spokesperson declined to comment on its conference sponsors but said it "pledged to make this conference a safe, open and inclusive place for all journalists."
"In recent months, we’ve heard from our members and many other journalists who have been impacted by a growing environment of hate in our country," the organization said in a statement. "We stand with them in calling for an end to hate."
The Excellence in Journalism conference is a national event hosted by SPJ, the RTDNA and NAHJ ― and is not only for Hispanic journalists.
It is set to take place Sept. 5 to 7 in San Antonio.
This article has been updated with a statement from RTDNA.