How Fox News turned Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into its new Hillary Clinton

For decades, Fox News’ programming has revolved around the need to identify and target Democratic demons, who are then used to frighten Republican viewers. And for most of the network’s existence, Hillary Clinton has served as a perennial rogue, depicted as a villainous, criminal scoundrel who can’t be trusted with America’s future. With Clinton now receding from public life, Fox News has seamlessly transferred its vile attacks onto a new generation of Democratic women, led by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

“Fox News needs an opponent, a detractor, an enemy to add conflict and edge to its broadcasts,” noted the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. In other words, Fox is in the business of scripted entertainment—under the guise of “news”—and needs long-running characters that it can return to again and again. It crafts targets of hate who rile up viewers and keep them tuned in to the different storylines.

For Fox, Clinton, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez represent perfect targets in terms of riling up its intolerant base: Clinton is a woman of a certain age, while Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are women of a certain heritage. And yes, there’s something in the Fox News DNA over the years that has meant that women political opponents spark a deeper sense of outrage and hate. You could make an argument that during eight years in the White House, it was Michelle Obama who suffered sharper, more personal Fox News attacks than did her husband. It’s all part of an endless, dehumanizing campaign to silence opponents, and specifically to silence and intimidate Democratic women.

This week, Fox News’ sister print outlet, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, published an incitement on the front page, which depicted the World Trade Towers bursting into flames and falsely claimed that Omar, who is Muslim, had belittled the Sept. 11 attack. The reckless pile-on has been relentless. Days earlier, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade questioned Omar’s loyalty, saying, “You have to wonder if she is an American first.” Over at Fox Business News, Lou Dobbs claimed, “She sounds like she hates America.” Those comments echoed those made by another Fox host, Jeanine Pirro, who suggested, “Omar wears a hijab. … Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”

Pirro was actually suspended from hosting her Saturday night show for two weeks because of her tawdry attack on Omar. But her suspension has obviously done nothing to curtail the mindless, racist attacks on the Democratic congresswoman. All this has happened while threats against Omar’s life continue to escalate.

To date, Fox News’ obsession with Ocasio-Cortez, for the most part, hasn’t been as overtly dangerous as its smear campaign against Omar, but the negative attention has been unending.

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