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Drudge Report critic: His 'Typhoid Mary-style' lies stigmatize immigrants

Drudge Report 'Battle of the Border Narrative' is on!
Drudge Report 'Battle of the Border Narrative' is on!
Getty Images/Evan Agostina

Wednesday, the Drudge Report was blasted as part of a right-wing campaign with a narrative to deliberately inflame anti-immigration sentiment. Nothing new there, right?

In her Guardian opinion essay Laura Murphy, makes it clear Drudge gets the headlines wrong. His are designed to create "widespread public anxiety that immigrant populations pose a threat to the health and safety of US citizens."

Now here's how Murphy, a liberal immigration advocate, thinks. News erupts that five of the border agents diapering kids and heating warm milk for baby bottles have come down with contagious diseases they wouldn't have -- if they were doing their real job. Hint: Guarding the border. So the Drudge banner is: "Border Patrol agents test positive for disease carried by immigrants."

Now, hold for this no-anxiety headline and give it time to sink in. You can't make this stuff up. Murphy suggested a better headline would be, "Border Patrol agents unusually healthy among Americans."

Actually, many Americans really want to know what's up with this notion of a Drudge Report narrative versus an Obama administration narrative. Why not an American narrative, or would that be racist?

A recent poll indicated a majority of Americans are not in favor of immigration reform including any form of "amnesty." Most want the current laws enforced and secure borders. Yet the "narrative" of the Obama administration claims otherwise. Some believe if the American people were always provided unfiltered answers to their questions, the "Battle of the Narrative" might be obsolete.

The Drudge Report has kept a running storyboard of updates on what is being cast as a "humanitarian crisis" of thousands of migrants, which include notable numbers of children, entering illegally and turning themselves in on the Texas borders. Amid stories covered by Drudge, Murphy was pulled in when a local CBS station in Dallas/Fort Worth reported about communicable illnesses discovered among illegal immigrants warehoused in south Texas.

CBS reported that the border area was "overwhelmed because of the possibilities for diseases" which included an epidemic of head lice plus diagnoses of scabies, tuberculosis, swine flu and HIV/AIDS. That report has been followed with rumors of Ebola, dengue, and the possibility of other unknown but lethal diseases. According to the report, some agents were ill from contact with the migrant population.

Murphy, an immigrant advocate, doesn't have a problem exposing her agenda. She worries conservative "Typhoid Mary-style" campaigns pushing "myths of diseased hordes of immigrants," will be effective even though they are, she claims, full of falsehoods. "I fear the stigma attached to immigrants on the Mexican border," wrote Miller, will not easily fade "without significant immigration reform." Ahem, now that's transparency.

While it's true that disease carriers may at times be stigmatized out of unfounded fear, according to Texas state health officials and medical volunteers the communicable disease fear is not being sensationalized, politicized nor is it unfounded. To the contrary, they see "a looming medical crisis." After all, worldwide, infectious disease remains the number one cause of death.

The Texas Tribune reported the Texas Department of State Health Services described conditions in which the migrant population are housed presented "a high risk for infectious disease outbreaks." Furthermore, doctors have stated that "recent detainees were not appropriately screened or treated for illness."

For days after they first arrive, the only medical screenings they receive is visual and oral. Children who have traveled alone eventually receive a "well-child" exam once relocated; however, others often go their way unless the visual or oral exam indicated a problem.

McAllen volunteer doctor, Martin Garza, who has treated hundreds of the migrants, predicted the medical problems are being shifted to other regions, untreated. He said, "Many get on buses and go as far as New York, Ohio or Florida. Today it’s an Hidalgo County problem," but tomorrow, he added, the threat of communicable diseases will still exist even though the possible carrier has been relocated.

Information black-out creates its own narrative, one that fuels rumor, speculation and rampant fear. Currently Drudge Report headlines reveal that some medical staff, including doctors, who were brought in to screen the migrants for health issues, were threatened with arrest if they warned of the health risks regarding the migrants. In addition, elected representatives have complained they are being shut out.

Murphy isn't the first to decry the influence of the Drudge Report page and right-wing media. Brent Budowsky wrote a year ago in "Obama needs a Drudge," that "Obama and his inner circle treat politics more like a one-candidate personal cult with an insular system of centralized White House control, rather than a broad-based national movement that promotes powerful issues and persuades with compelling narratives."