On Tuesday night, Texas’ border crisis basked in the dim light of Fox News’ primetime opinion programming. Back to back, the top two on-air faces at the nation’s premier center-right cable news outlet featured the Southern border mess and Texas’ response.
But viewers were left with two entirely different perceptions of the situation.
“We open this show with horrifying pictures of what’s happening at our southern border which is completely open, and this country is being invaded,” Tucker Carlson said in his opening monologue.
“No, that’s not an overstatement — more than a million people [illegally crossing] this year expected.”
Carlson then turned his sights to Abbott, chastising him for not appearing on his show — the highest-rated in all of cable news.
“This has been going on for months and we’ve asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott many times to come on this show to explain why he hasn’t called the National Guard to seal the Texas border.”
As of June, Abbott had deployed a small portion — about 1,000 troops — of the state’s approximate 20,000 National Guard troops.
Tucker then said Abbott has “refused to come on, repeatedly.”
Fast forward an hour and the same issue brought a different assessment.
“At least 12,000 migrants are living in squalor in Joe Biden’s border camp under the Del Rio, Texas bridge,” Sean Hannity told viewers. “Neither Biden nor Harris can really be bothered to care and they’re aiding and abetting lawbreaking and refuse to offer any solutions.”
Then, Hannity brought in Abbott to discuss the issue.
“Now tonight, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he’s standing strong. He’s doing everything in his power to protect Texans [and] mobilizing the resources that he can and urging the president to issue a state of emergency declaration.”
Abbott called the White House’s directive to place the tens of thousands of Haitian migrants underneath the bridge “a disaster.”
The governor then ran through Texas’ efforts to secure the border such as the state’s $3 billion in new funding for various security measures, including the “steel barrier” made up of hundreds of patrol cars. As soon as that was up, the border crossings in that area ceased.
The State of Texas is also trying to finish construction on the southern border wall begun by the Trump administration but has moved forward with its own plan. That plan was only formally initiated on September 16 when the state entered a contract with a private firm to begin the construction. About 450 miles of wall were constructed before Joe Biden took office and halted its construction.
But Texas’ 1,200-mile-long border has faced a months-long spike in illegal crossings that has reached record highs. And the crossings are occurring at many more points of entry than just the Del Rio sector.
Border patrol officials have said the forces at the border are “overwhelmed.”
To Hannity, Abbott said, “We have thousands of National Guard [troops] engaged as we speak with more being added all the time.”
No firm number has been released and the Texas Military Department did not return The Texan’s inquiry. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) did tell The Texan that “DPS has deployed around one-thousand Troopers, Special Agents and Rangers to assist at the southern border as part of Operation Lone Star.”
“We’ve unleashed the National Guard to do their job,” Abbott emphasized during the Hannity interview.
Hannity concluded the interview, saying, “I hope you’re able to get that situation under control because I don’t think help is coming from the federal government.”
At the end of his segment, Carlson promised to have Abbott’s primary opponents on his show should the governor not take up the host’s offer. He delivered on that promise the next night, bringing on former Texas GOP chair, and the highest-polling Abbott primary opponent, Allen West to discuss the issue.
Asked why certain border security measures have not been implemented, West told Carlson, “Well, you’d have to ask the person who’s currently the governor that obviously refuses to go on your show but goes on other shows where he feels he has a nice listening audience.”
Carlson has not placed all the blame on Abbott. He’s castigated the Biden administration at length, too.
After West’s full response, Carlson noted, “Colonel West, I think you’ve just won a lot of support — certainly from me.”
Arguably the two most powerful media voices in GOP primary politics — Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity — are entirely divided on their assessments of the Texas governor’s response to and role in the unfolding border crisis.
Each reaches over 3 million households every night and possesses massive sway with GOP primary voters.
Recent polling showed an odd trend among Texas Republican voters. A mid-September poll conducted by the University of Texas at Tyler showed a 7 percent decrease in Abbott’s net overall approval rating among GOP voters compared with the June version.
But it also showed a 9 percent jump in net approval of Abbott’s border response among those voters.
The September poll occurred before the Haitian migrant situation in Del Rio crescendoed, and before the dueling acts by the Fox News anchors.
The Fox duo are not the only figures within the conservative and right-wing commentariat wading into the race. Founder of Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk, hosted another Abbott primary challenger, former state Sen. Don Huffines, during which the host criticized the incumbent extensively.
The third high-profile challenger, BlazeTV host Chad Prather, is himself a political commentator with his own show on Glenn Beck’s influential network.
Others critical of Abbott include Houston radio host and frequent guest of Carlson’s show, Jesse Kelly.
But Abbott still has his own allies, too. In a June interview on Fox News, Laura Ingraham applauded Abbott’s efforts on the border. “Thank you for stepping up and the people of Texas are spending an enormous amount of their tax dollars to secure their state, but that money should ultimately come from the federal government,” she said.
Abbott has a substantial advantage in the GOP primary, buttressed by his record-setting $55 million war chest. But the latest polling indicates his position so far atop the field is not entirely impervious.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.