During a Fox News segment on Friday about the rise of crime in Democratic cities, anchor Harris Faulkner brought on a woman described merely as a “business owner” to rail against the “progressive policies” in Austin, Texas.
What was not disclosed in the interview, however, is that the woman is a conservative community activist who unsuccessfully ran for Travis County judge last year as a Republican.
“People in Austin, Texas are blaming left-wing policies for creating a culture of crime and fear,” Faulkner said on Thursday’s broadcast of The Faulkner Focus. “Police staffing shortages, rampant homelessness and yes, that surging crime, are forcing businesses now to make some tough choices to survive.”
After noting the increase in murders and assaults in Austin since 2020, Faulkner welcomed Rupal Chaudhari to discuss the “bleak picture” of the city’s “crime crisis,” adding that Chaudhari “owns a business” in Austin and is “living the reality.”
With an on-screen graphic describing her as an “Austin, TX business owner,” Chaudhari brought up the fact that she owns a hotel next to a property that the city purchased to convert into transitional housing for homeless people.
“What you are seeing today now is progressive policies in action,” Chaudhuri declared. “Austin City decided to buy the hotels all around the city and turn them into homeless centers. It failed in California, it failed in New York, but yet our Austin City Council thinks they’re going to be different. Yes, they are different. They are failing bigger and better every single time.”
Fox News then aired a video Chaudhari shared with the network, showing what Chaudhari described as criminals breaking into the soon-to-be homeless center and vandalizing the property.
“This is a reality. The crime is up. We have police shortages around the city,” the Fox guest continued. “And if there is crime happening, if there are break-ins happening—the patio furniture is stolen—all we get is call 311 or report to 311.”
After Faulkner asked her “how you will survive this as a business owner,” Chaudhuri pointed out that “it drives away business” before noting that the hotel she owns recently had to pay for a security staff.
“We have had to hire our own security and the people jumping I would say, you know, the hotel policies have failed everywhere,” she said. “When you put the homeless in a hotel usually they experience damage after they are put into. These people jumping—this hotel is not even open and has been fully vandalized, and it’s still yet to open next year. We constantly see trespassers. It is non-stop.”
Chaudhari added: “It is a nightmare right now in Austin to survive to be a business owner or a resident. What Austin City Council has done, they put these hotels in the middle of neighborhoods and gone so far as putting it in a different county. So they don’t have a plan, and it’s the reality we’re living.”
Wrapping up the segment, Faulkner responded to Chaudhuri by saying that “they do have a plan,” which is “leftist policies—and it is breaking you.”
Left unsaid throughout the entire interview, though, is Chaudhari’s activism and political candidacy—which has revolved around her objection to Austin’s decision to purchase an empty Candlewood Suites hotel and convert it into housing for homeless people.
After filing a lawsuit against the city in early 2021, Chaudhari—who owns two hotels near the proposed development—then launched the “Stop Candlewood” campaign to protest the planned homeless center and demand the city’s leadership relocate it.
Chaudhari, who is also an immigration attorney, then decided to run for judge of Travis County against Democratic incumbent Andy Brown in 2022. Her campaign page said that she wanted local government to adopt a “tough-love concept and not apologize for moving [people experiencing homelessness] off public spaces, such as parks, sidewalks, and nature trails. [They should not be allowed] to impede entry or endanger private homes or businesses.”
In the end, she lost to Brown by 43 points, pulling in only 28.4 percent of the vote.
This isn’t the first time Fox News has presented partisan activists and politicians as merely “concerned” citizens. In the run-up to the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, for instance, the network repeatedly hosted nearly a dozen prominent Republican strategists, media personalities or conservative think tank staffers as “regular parents” worried about the proliferation of “critical race theory” in their children’s schools.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.