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The largest organization of Latino journalists in the United States disinvited Fox News from its national conference, taking place in San Antonio next month.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) published a letter written by Hugo Balta, the association's president, announcing the decision on Thursday afternoon.
"Today I am announcing the decision to rescind the invitation of Fox News as a sponsor for NAHJ at the upcoming Excellence In Journalism (EIJ19) conference," said Balta, who is also a senior producer at MSNBC.
The decision was made after Fox News Radio Host, Todd Starnes, used "prejudiced language directed against Latino immigrants as opinionated commentary," just two weeks after 22 people were killed during a mass shooting in El Paso targeting Mexican-Americans and Mexicans, Balta wrote.
In the letter, Balta referenced an instance in which Starnes said that America has “suffered” from the “invasion of a rampaging hoard of illegal aliens” and claimed that most “illegal immigrants” are violent criminals.
Marsheila Hayes, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at Fox News, responded to NAHJ's letter.
"It is unfortunate the country's main organization for Hispanic journalists has chosen to exclude FOX News from their upcoming convention. As the leading news network in the country, we are committed to fostering a diverse and collaborative workplace environment, and have been recognized in the industry four our advancement in this area, most notably with our multimedia reporter program," said Hayes in a written statement.
The incident with Starnes is not an isolated one and follows years of ongoing NAHJ conversations with Fox News about how "all Hispanics and Latinos, have been demonized by voices with high visibility due to there being little to no consequences by management," Balta said.
NAHJ promised to refund the $16,666 Fox News paid to sponsor the conference "due to the passive action and insincerity to ongoing conversations."
According to Balta, NAHJ asked conference co-partners, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), to also return their respective $16,666 share of the $50,000 sponsorship dollars.
Both organizations refused to do so, "opting instead to give Fox News a larger platform to discuss what they label as a 'teachable moment,'" the letter reads.
“We condemn the unacceptable comments by the Fox contributor, however, as a press freedom organization, we must defend the spirit of free speech inherent in the First Amendment,” said SPJ president J. Alex Tarquinio in a statement. “Although it is unfortunate when the principle of free speech collides with the basic moral standards of civil debate, we will not exclude any media organization from the Excellence in Journalism conference based on their commentators’ points of view.”
RTDNA told NBC News in a written statement that in recent months they've heard from their members and other journalists "impacted by a growing environment of hate in our country," adding they "stand with them in calling for an end to hate."
According to the statement, RTDNA believes the best way to "fight hate is by training journalists to produce news that will inform the public and shine a light on the truth."
The organization also pledged to make the EIJ conference "a safe, open and inclusive place for all journalists."
NAHJ said its decision is directed to Fox News management and "in no way towards NAHJ members employed by the media company."