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Eye On Boise

Articles explore role of Bannon’s Breitbart News in fanning fears of refugees, Chobani in Twin Falls

Two articles in recent days, one from the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker and one from the Washington Post, highlighted the role of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News in whipping up fear and opposition to the longstanding refugee resettlement program in Twin Falls, including targeting Chobani, the big Greek yogurt maker whose Turkish-born owner has hired refugees and encouraged other businesses to follow suit. Bannon is now President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist and senior adviser.

Barker’s article, headlined “Breitbart’s Chobani coverage is a reminder of Idaho’s experience with the alt-right,” reports, “Breitbart News came to Twin Falls earlier this year and sought to turn what had been called the ‘Magic Valley miracle’ into a nightmare. Latching onto a story anti-Muslim media had erroneously spread across the internet about Syrian refugees involved in the sexual assault of a child, Breitbart tried to link the story to Chobani, the yogurt maker that built a successful factory in Twin Falls.”

Breitbart published stories trying to paint Chobani as part of a “drive for cheap labor by the local food processing industry,” though the firm actually pays far higher than the average wage in the Magic Valley; trying to tie the firm to the sexual assault story, increases in crime and disease; and falsely suggesting refugees were being brought to Idaho specifically to work for Chobani, when the Twin  Falls refugee resettlement program is 40 years old. Barker’s full article is online here.

The Washington Post article, headlined, “In Twin Falls, Idaho, co-dependency of whites and immigrants faces a test,” reporter Chico Harlan writes, “The rancor in Twin Falls began to surface only over the past year and a half as concerns about domestic terrorism awakened a fierce and sudden debate about whether the local Muslim population represented a point of pride or a potential danger — an anxiety that Trump amplified during his campaign. For decades before, the refu­gee resettlement program run by a local community college had flourished with little opposition, with refugees filling open jobs on dairy farms and in cheese factories.” That full article is online here.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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