02/11/2013 12:52 am ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Roger Ailes Hopes To Grow Latino Audience For Fox News

Just as Republicans are soul-searching following the decisive electoral defeat in November that highlighted the country’s shifting demographics, Fox News, the party’s preferred cable news network, is looking inward amid record declines in ratings and credibility.

On Thursday, Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei described both the party and network as "moving to purge the controversial political creatures they created." So far, Fox News has opted not to renew the contracts of commentators Dick Morris or Sarah Palin, while bringing over from CNN Erick Erickson, editor of RedState and a prominent voice among grassroots conservatives.

But aside from swapping on-air political analysts, how does Fox News –- which hitched its wagon to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party at the beginning of President Obama’s first term -- deal with the president's second-term agenda?

For starters, Fox News chief Roger Ailes appears to be trying to change perceptions that his network is hostile toward undocumented immigrants and hopes to increasingly draw Latino viewers, a key voting bloc that swung overwhelming toward Obama in November.

“The fact is, we have a lot -- Republicans have a lot more opportunity for [Latinos],” Ailes told The New Republic’s Eliza Gray, in an article published in the magazine's latest issue and appearing online Monday. “If I’m going to risk my life to run over the fence to get into America, I want to win. I think Fox News will articulate that.”

Ailes also told Gray that “the contributions being made by Latinos are extraordinary, and we need to talk about them,” while suggesting the “Latino audience is an essentially traditional audience and will go to Fox News for traditional American values." And then there’s the term “illegal immigration,” which Ailes, a former adviser to three Republican presidents, thinks the party should veer away from:

“I think the word 'illegal immigration' is a false name,” he continues. “You are talking about two separate issues. One is sovereignty. ... The media trying to make America feel guilty because we want borders—that, to me, is complete bullshit. Immigration is a separate issue. ... 
We should all defend sovereignty, then take a Judeo-Christian approach to immigration. I don’t have any problem with a path to citizenship.”

Gray points out that Ailes may still need to convince some of his biggest stars that describing people as “illegal aliens” or “illegals” when covering the immigration debate could be a hindrance to drawing Latino viewers.

While Sean Hannity famously shifted his position on immigration less than 48 hours after Mitt Romney's defeat, the primetime host told Gray: “I’ve used 'illegals' all these years I’ve been on TV. ... I don’t see it as an offensive term.”

Meanwhile, the network's Fox News Latino and and Fox Nation websites sometimes frame the same immigration article in completely different ways, showing that there's work to do before everyone's on the same page.

Read the full New Republic article here.



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