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Kevin McCarthy won't stop telling fentanyl-related myths

In a clear effort to rile up anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the midterms, the House minority leader keeps trying to scare Americans with an unsubstantiated story.


Like clockwork, Republicans have revived their anti-immigrant fearmongering ahead of the midterm elections, with many focusing on what they allege is a porous border that serves as a corridor for crime. 

Think of it as a re-up of the "caravan" rhetoric from 2018, a bigoted ruse to rile Americans’ racist fears about predominantly-Latino migrants entering the United States through its southern border with Mexico.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is doing his part to keep the anxiety high by telling spooky — and completely unsubstantiated — stories about Americans’ encounters with drugs he claims are coming through the southern border virtually unfettered. In the past week alone, McCarthy has appeared on Fox News at least twice telling tales of Americans who’ve suffered debilitating health issues merely by coming in contact with fentanyl, the powerful drug additive connected to a raft of overdoses across the country in recent years. 

The problem here is that claims that people can suffer overdoses or serious health defects merely by coming in contact with fentanyl have been debunked time and again. Typically, we find police departments telling these fentanyl-related lies, but McCarthy has gotten in on the act in recent interviews with some of Fox News’ most vocal opponents of immigration. 

On Sunday, he appeared on Fox News host Maria Bartiromo’s show pushing baseless claims that a junior high school counselor overdosed after touching a dose of fentanyl a student allegedly brought to school.

It was a tale so fictitious it belongs in a "Law & Order" episode.

The minority leader's remark appears to be a referring to a story related to drugs in California, but as the progressive watchdog Media Matters noted, “there is no valid basis to Rep. McCarthy’s claim”

Local news reports do not mention the Bakersfield, CA, junior high counselor overdosing; First Responders administered NarCan after the potential exposure, in line with the DEA’s first responder guidance: “Incidental skin contact may occur during daily activities but is not expected to lead to harmful effects if the contaminated skin is promptly washed off with water.”

But McCarthy isn’t one to let the truth get in the way of a good story. And just days later, he was back on Fox News — this time with right-wing host Laura Ingraham — pushing the same fentanyl myth. 

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported in July how Fox News routinely discusses fentanyl in political terms, usually as a means to attack the Biden administration. 

“Fox News talks about fentanyl far more often than does its competitors, and it usually does so in precisely the context that McCarthy does: the U.S.-Mexico border,” Bump wrote. “Since President Biden was inaugurated, the network has been more likely to talk about fentanyl while discussing immigration than it has been to discuss it in other contexts.” 

As Bump and my MSNBC colleague Steve Benen have noted, Republicans have even pointed to seizures of drugs like fentanyl at the border as a sign of failed immigration enforcement … despite the fact drugs being seized by border officials means they were intercepted before they reached the United States. 

All of this points to the Republicans’ manic search for a winning message ahead of the midterms this fall. In lieu of one based in reality, McCarthy is evidently just going to pull from his wild imagination.