In recent weeks, Fox News (Right bias) has adopted a unique name for those publicly protesting Israel’s military activities in Gaza — “anti-Israel agitators.”

Headlines including this language were frequently featured at the top of the homepage, signaling that Fox News Digital was prioritizing these stories. 

Since the term is rarely used elsewhere, it’s possible that Fox News’ editors inserted it into headlines intentionally.

Fox News homepage (April 22, 2024)
Fox News homepage (April 23, 2024)

Did Fox News Editors Do This On Purpose?

Web searches for the term “anti-Israel agitators,” conducted on multiple search engines including AllSides’ Balanced Search, found it to be almost exclusively used by Fox News.

This suggests that this was an intentional editorial decision at Fox News, not just a subconscious bias or a colloquial trend.

The New York Post (Lean Right bias), another NewsCorp media property, also used the term on some occasions, as did some opinion writers for National Review (Opinion rated Right). Like Fox News and the Post, National Review has consistently favored the Israeli government’s perspective since Hamas’ October 7 attack.

Data from Google Trends shows interest in the exact term “anti-Israel agitators” was nearly non-existent through most of the conflict in Gaza — until early April, when it suddenly shot up.


‘Antisemitism Exposed’

This wouldn’t be Fox’s first time slanting coverage against Israel’s critics. (Slant is a type of media bias in which reporters support, highlight, or play up one side over another.) Shortly after the war in Gaza began, Fox began promoting its “Antisemitism Exposed” topic page, often placing it first in its “Trending” bar. 

Fox News, "Antisemitism Exposed" page (April 24, 2024)

According to the Wayback Machine, the topic page was established in 2019 and initially covered scattered stories related to anti-Semitism. The page got a significant traffic boost after October 7, however, and in the following months it featured stories that increasingly blurred the line between overt anti-Jewish sentiment and criticism of Israeli military activities.

Fox was not alone in this trend; the national discourse on Gaza became increasingly murky as the war dragged on. Media voices across the spectrum often conflated people’s arguments with their most extreme interpretations. Is it “pro-genocide” to support the Israeli government’s intent to defeat Hamas? Is it “pro-Hamas” to believe that the Israeli Defense Forces are perpetrating a genocide in Gaza? Today, Fox News’ “Antisemitism Exposed” page seems to agree with the latter. 

The History of ‘Agitators’ and ‘Outside Agitators’

Discourse around the term “agitators” is also not new. During the 2020 George Floyd protests, many attributed damage caused by rioters to “outside agitators.”

Others, often on the political left, warned against blaming “outside agitators,” labeling the idea a “myth” (NPR, Lean Left), “narrative” (CNN, Lean Left), or a “trope” (Vox, Left) used to “undermine protest movements” (CNN) by purportedly suggesting that “the protesters involved in social change movements are carrying out someone else’s nefarious agenda.”

However, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) invoked the idea that agitators often infiltrate protest movements to defend Gaza protesters in April 2024, as a Daily Wire (Right bias) article highlighted. Bush said, “As a Ferguson activist, I know what it’s like to have agitators infiltrate our movement, manipulate the press, & fuel the suppression of dissent by public officials & law enforcement.” 

Regardless of whether claims of outside “agitators” are merited, Fox News’ use of the term in recent articles seems to apply to any protesters of Israel’s military actions. 

Most recently, Fox used the term to describe a group of students and faculty who set up tents to occupy Columbia University’s South Lawn. 

As in other coverage, Fox used the occasion to highlight the opinions of people who saw the protesters as “pro-terrorist,” and prominently quoted a chant by “the protesters” that included the line, “Burn Tel Aviv to the ground.” Does that sentiment represent the entire protest? In this piece, Fox does not draw a distinction.

How Outlets Across the Spectrum Talk About Gaza Protesters

Coverage in outlets on the left often label protesters as “pro-Palestinian,” a positive framing that links the demonstrators to the suffering Palestinian people in Gaza.

On the other hand, coverage from right-rated outlets and pro-Israeli outlets often label protesters as “anti-Israeli” or “anti-Jewish,” a negative framing that links the demonstrators to anti-Semitism. Some headlines even called protesters “pro-Hamas.”

When covering the protests at Columbia, Fox News reported on the “violent anti-Israel protests,” stating that protesters “hurled bottles at police officers who were sent to the scene to disperse a large unruly crowd.”

On the other hand, coverage from ABC News (Lean Left bias) labeled the demonstration a “pro-Palestinian protest,” and included no mention of bottles being thrown at police, instead reporting that the police were called after the barricades around the plaza were breached. 

An NYPD official told CNN that while the Columbia demonstrations “weren’t violent overall,” there were “a few bottles thrown at police officers.”

The Associated Press (Lean Left bias) reported that the school called the police in response to reports of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents.”

The AP article then includes a quote from a student protestor criticizing the university and distancing the protest from the reported anti-Semitic incidents, stating, “That’s absolutely not what we stand for and that’s why there are so many Jewish comrades that are here with us today.” 

Complex Issues Demand Nuanced Language

No one involved in these protests — the universities, the corporations, the police, or the protesters themselves — can directly control what Hamas and the Israeli government do. The protesters hope to influence President Joe Biden to pressure Israel for a ceasefire, but Israel is a sovereign nation, and the Israeli government believes Hamas to be an existential threat. 

In the absence of control, it becomes easy to oversimplify a controversial issue, since no one actually faces the consequences of their position. Similarly, it becomes easy for partisan, sensationalist media to throw blanket labels at those whom they mark as villains. 

In this case, Fox News has marked a set of protesters as villains — branding them “agitators,” who, unlike “protesters,” would not necessarily have a legitimate cause to protest. 

Do the protesters have legitimate concerns or not? Rather than letting you decide for yourself, someone at Fox News wants to make that decision for you. 

Joseph Ratliff is a Content Designer and News Editor at AllSides. He has a Lean Left bias.

This piece was reviewed by Malayna J. Bizier, News Assistant (Right bias), Henry A. Brechter, editor-in-chief (Center bias), and Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias)