NAHJ condemns partners for keeping Fox News sponsorship following host’s racist remarks

A Fox banner stands at the J-Expo and Career Fair at the Excellence in Journalism conference in San Antonio, Texas. (Marie D. De Jesús / Latino Reporter)

NAHJ returned a $16,666 check to Fox News, but it’s already made most of that amount back thanks to individual donations.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists received roughly $10,600 from its members following a break from Fox News earlier this month as a result of a radio host’s racist comments about “a rampaging horde of illegal aliens” in reference to Latin American migrants.

NAHJ Executive Director Alberto Mendoza addressed the organization’s decision to rescind Fox News’s sponsorship during a meeting with members on Saturday afternoon, at the tail end of NAHJ’s annual conference. He said the donations are being put into NAHJ’s general fund, which goes toward various programs and the annual conference.

But NAHJ’s conference partners, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association, declined to follow suit in returning Fox’s money. 

The Fox News brand was still on display at the conference — on bags handed out to attendees, at a bootcamp sponsored by the corporation and on a banner outside its recruitment booth at the career fair. 

NAHJ President Hugo Balta said he was “very disappointed” that SPJ and RTDNA refused to cut ties with Fox News in solidarity.

“I think they missed an opportunity to really stand by us as a community of journalists,” Balta said.

SPJ President-elect Matthew Hall said his organization does not support the statements made by Fox News radio host Todd Starnes, but they felt that withdrawing their invitation to have Fox News co-sponsor the Excellence in Journalism 2019 conference would have ruined future opportunities.

“Fox News has been an EIJ sponsor for years,” Hall wrote in a direct message via Twitter. “Fox News has also had pundits say vile things before and employed ethical journalists over time. If we drop Fox, what about CNN? MSNBC? Any media outlet that pays people to opine and whose opinions of course won’t find 100% approval in a divided age?”

RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley declined to comment further after the organization issued a statement saying “the best way we can fight hate is by training journalists to produce news that will inform the public and shine a light on the truth.” 

Balta said the other organizations should recognize that Fox News has become a megaphone for dangerous rhetoric. 

“For the past year I’ve engaged Fox News in conversations both personally, through email and phone calls,” said Balta, who is a producer at MSNBC, adding that he gave them “examples about how that type of rhetoric is really propaganda in shaping policy.”

Balta said NAHJ cannot associate organizations that do not treat Latinos fairly — in and out of the newsroom.

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