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"Where Is The Crime? African American Neighborhoods. Hispanic Neighborhoods."
On September 22, CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck attempted to defend the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, the unarmed black man who was killed in Tulsa, OK, after his car broke down on the road. Houck argued Crutcher was being uncooperative and might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon in his car. Prior to that appearance, Houck accused critics of the shooting of “playing [the] race card,” describing outrage over Crutcher’s death as part of “the war on police.”
Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.
One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”
Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.
Houck has repeatedly suggested that African-American and Hispanic communities are policed more aggressively than white communities because “they’re not behaving.” He frequently echoes the racist myth that people of color are more likely to commit crimes, prompting pushback from other CNN guests who have repeatedly had to respond to his race-baiting remarks. During the July 11, 2016, edition of New Day, when asked by a fellow guest if he was suggesting that black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “They are!”
Houck also downplays the reality of racial profiling in the criminal justice system, calling it “something that somebody made up.” He regularly dismisses evidence showing unequal treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system, mocking comprehensive studies and academic research showing that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. In Houck’s view, African-Americans are targeted by law enforcement because they’re the ones committing crime.
On Twitter, Houck is even less subtle about his race baiting. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic), and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website. In July, Houck posted a link to a video from “men’s rights” activist Tommy Sotomayor calling on President Obama to “ban niggas.”
Houck has also used his CNN platform to blame high-profile African-American victims of police violence, going to absurd lengths to defend police officers while denying the existence of racial bias. Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims for their mistreatment by police -- in his view, Eric Garner was resisting arrest, Sandra Bland was being “arrogant” and “uncooperative,” and Alton Sterling wasn’t complying with officers. He defended the police killing of Tamir Rice, saying officers “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot the 12-year-old boy. He defended a police officer who grabbed a South Carolina high school student and yanked her from her classroom desk, claiming the student “probably has no respect at home or on the street.”
Houck’s victim-blaming often leads him to make blatantly false statements about these incidents on national television, like falsely claiming Bland refused to identify herself to police, and falsely claiming an officer informed a pregnant California woman she was being arrested before attempting to arrest her.
Houck has also used his CNN platform to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Houck has described the movement as part of the progressive “war on police,” claiming that “the left does not give a damn about police officers’ lives.” During the August 30, 2015, edition of CNN Newsroom, Houck compared BLM to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Houck also blames the murder of police officers on protests against police brutality. After the December 2014 killing of two NYPD police officers, Houck went on CNN and declared, “Two dead police officers, and I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”
Houck has also used Twitter to attack BLM, describing it as a “thug group” and a movement to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.” On August 15, 2016, Houck retweeted an image calling BLM “the new KKK.”
CNN’s decision to continue employing Houck has been criticized by the group ColorOfChange, which launched a petition in October 2015 asking CNN to stop hosting him. ColorOfChange criticized Houck’s “character assassination” of the black 16-year-old South Carolina student who was thrown from her desk by a police officer, also noting Houck’s “blind hero worshiping of the officer.”
In July 2016, following Houck’s comments about black criminality, ColorOfChange again asked the network to stop inviting him to discuss racial bias in law enforcement, writing:
Racist statements like this drive the attitudes and stereotypes that lead police officers to regularly commit brutal acts of violence that result in Black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling being killed.
We are sick of CNN contributor and ex-NYPD detective Harry Houck’s one-man crusade against Black victims of law enforcement violence. Houck’s blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous.
The group’s petition has garnered over 70,000 signatures, but that hasn’t stopped CNN from continuing to employ Houck as the network’s “law enforcement analyst.”
Media Matters used iQ media and Nexis to search CNN transcripts for the name “Houck” between May 18, 2015 -- Houck’s first appearance as a network “law enforcement analyst” -- and August 1, 2016. Reruns and snippets from pre-recorded interviews were excluded. For blocks of ongoing coverage of active shooter situations, segments were counted only when the host would begin by introducing and identifying Houck for the audience.
Top image created by Sarah Wasko.
Fox News praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for police departments across the country to engage in a stop-and-frisk policing policy based off of the unconstitutional New York City program. However, the policy is ineffective, unconstitutional and has increased “animosity between minority communities and law enforcement.”
CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck accused Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of playing the “race card for black votes” following her comments about the police shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK, describing the comments as part of "the war on police."
On September 20, Clinton commented on several recent police shootings of black men, including Crutcher, who was unarmed when he was killed. Clinton lamented the shootings, calling Crutcher’s death “unbearable” and saying the country must “tackle systemic racism.”
Following Clinton’s remarks, Houck took to Twitter to accuse her of playing the “race card for black votes”:
Houck’s comments came shortly before he appeared on the September 22 edition of CNN’s New Day to discuss Crutcher’s death. During the segment, Houck argued that Crutcher wasn’t being compliant with the officer and that he might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon -- continuing Houck’s long history of blaming black victims of police violence:
On Twitter, Houck also attempted to defend the Tulsa officer’s decision to shoot Crutcher, writing:
If there was a gun in the car, and he was reaching for it, and the officers waited until they saw it, then an officer might be dead right now. This is why you must comply with officer’s commands.
Houck also appeared on Newsmax TV, where he defended the shooting of Crutcher as well as the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was killed by police in Charlotte, N.C. “This is a disgusting display of alleged leadership,” Houck said of Clinton’s comments, adding, “This is all part of the war on police that I always talk about”:
Houck has been a constant source of race baiting and police apologism on CNN, repeatedly suggesting that black people are prone to criminality and blaming victims of police brutality for their own mistreatment.
In July 2015, the group ColorOfChange launched a petition asking CNN to “Drop Harry Houck.”
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“We Have Not Been Made By Trump, But We Want To Make Trump”
On September 9, three of the country’s most notorious white nationalists held a press conference in Washington, D.C., titled “What Is The Alt-Right?” The event, organized by the white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), came in response to growing media interest in the “alt-right” movement. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has helped mainstream the racist movement, including by hiring Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as his campaign CEO. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has “has been openly promoting the core issues of the Alt-Right, introducing these racist ideas to its readership.”
The press conference, which mixed plainly racist propaganda with praise for Trump’s campaign, highlights the “alt-right’s” desire to become a mainstream, professional, and legitimate part of American politics. Trump’s extreme position on immigration and other issues has propelled members of the “alt-right” into the spotlight, giving them unprecedented access to news networks and national audiences.
But while the speakers at the conference acknowledged that the movement had been “riding [Trump’s] coattails,” they also made clear that they weren’t interested in being a “Trump cheerleading squad.” For them, this election is an opportunity to make the case for a pro-white political agenda that goes far beyond 2016. “The ideas of the alt-right are gaining ground rapidly, Trump or no Trump,” said one speaker. “We are gaining ground because we are right.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is visiting Flint, MI, a city that is still struggling to recover from a drinking water crisis that Trump claimed “would have never happened if I were president.” Media should be wary if Trump repeats this claim, given his plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and rescind the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, as well as his energy adviser’s reported statement that the Clean Water Act would likely be “rolled back" by a Trump administration.
It’s been one year since news figures seized on the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim American child in Texas who was taken from his school in handcuffs for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to class. Last September, Fox News’ coverage of Mohamed’s arrest revealed a long-held tendency to selectively invoke the language of “school safety” to conveniently push conservative stances on immigration, national security, LGBT rights, and guns, while ignoring threats to the safety of the most vulnerable populations in our schools.
When Fox News talks about “school safety,” the ensuing conversation is exactly what you’d expect from a network with a median viewer age of 68 and a prime-time viewership that’s only 1.1 percent black. For Fox and its viewers, a predictable line exists between those individuals worthy of protection and those who represent perceived threats. Here’s what we’ve seen on Fox since Ahmed’s arrest made headlines last fall.
In September 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested at his Irving, TX, middle school and brought to a local police station in handcuffs after he was reported for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to his classroom. In the weeks of national media coverage of the incident that followed, Fox News figures dismissed Mohamed’s traumatic experience and used the incident to justify profiling.
The network aired segments vilifying the child, claiming that progressives were hypocritical or willfully exploitative for suggesting Mohamed’s arrest was influenced by Islamophobia, and hyping so-called connections between Mohamed’s family members and terrorists. The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld summarized this convoluted position: “Try bringing a clock that looks like a bomb to the White House. Actually, no, don’t try it; you’ve seen what they do to people who jump fences. So why is this school’s safety a joke, but President Obama’s isn’t? Because for [Obama], and the media, the story fits the assumption of an America that hates Muslims. Yup, it’s our fault for reacting when a kid brings a wired-up box to a place filled with kids in a state where terror has occurred.”
According to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, classroom teachers are reporting more incidents of identity-based bullying and fear particularly among students from immigrant and Muslim families, a trend that appears to be connected to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric -- which Fox News has actively legitimized for years. A California study released just months after Mohamed’s arrest found that the majority of American Muslim students in the state reported experiencing physical and verbal bullying because of their faith in 2014. An in-depth report from The Guardian explained the trend:
Words are the most common weapon of school bullies, but in the past month, anti-Muslim sentiment in schools is increasingly manifesting in physical attacks, particularly against girls who wear the hijab. On 19 November, three boys allegedly beat up a sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab, calling her “Isis”. A 2014 study by Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) study found 29% of students who wore hijab experienced offensive touching or pulling of their scarves.
Fifty-five percent of Muslim students surveyed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) last year reported that they were bullied at school in some form because of their Islamic faith. That’s twice the national percentage of bullying reported by all students, regardless of their religion. According to the CAIR survey, verbal harassment is the most common, with non-Muslims calling Muslim students terrorists or referencing bombs. But physical assaults also occur.
These incidents are taking a psychological toll on Muslim youth. “At a crucial time in their identity development, they’re suffering from chronic trauma,” says Dr Halim Naeem, a psychotherapist and president of The Institute of Muslim Mental Health. Dr Naeem says that in the past few months alone, he has seen increased cases of depression, anxiety, image issues, paranoia, and substance abuse among Muslim American youth. In the short term, the constant stress wreaks havoc on students’ immune systems and destroys their focus, disrupting learning ability.
In the wake of recent mass shootings, Fox News figures voices have repeatedly pushed arming educators or allowing more guns in schools as a way to improve student and teacher safety, and irresponsibly spread dangerous misinformation about school safety best practices. Immediately following the 2012 mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Fox News began calling for teachers to be armed -- even as school security experts, educators, and others argue that bringing guns into schools would make classrooms more dangerous and worsen learning environments for students. When a Texas school district moved to arm some of its teachers in 2014, the network devoted at least two segments to celebrating the decision and pushing the long-debunked myth (peddled by the NRA) that “a good guy with a gun” would prevent mass shootings. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade praised the initiative: “If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected.” Last year, Fox & Friends co-hosts again demonstrated a misguided understanding of school safety when they encouraged young children to physically confront gunmen, rather than first try to escape, and then hide -- and only confront the guman as a last resort -- as experts advise in the event of an active shooter situation.
As the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, wrote back in 2014, educators have long expressed an overwhelming desire to keep firearms out of classrooms and to strengthen gun violence prevention measures. Research has shown that greater access to guns in general creates greater risk for accidents and misfires. Gun access corresponds with increased risk of homicide, and gun-related deaths in the home are now the second most likely cause of death for children and teens. There’s also little evidence the presence of armed security staff in schools makes them any safer. Advocates are pushing for better training and reformed responsibilities for these positions to emphasize restorative justice and de-escalation techniques, as well as student and community needs, in order to combat current racial disparities in schools’ use of armed security officers.
Fox News figures have been instrumental in pushing the right-wing myth that gender-inclusive bathrooms in schools allow adult men to prey on children. The network has routinely either fearmongered about schools’ efforts to make their bathrooms safe for all students to use or mocked inclusive bathroom policies altogether. More than two years after Media Matters first debunked the “bathroom predator” myth, Fox News continues to push dangerous rhetoric about nondiscrimination policies. In April, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt hyped the disingenuous claim that nondiscrimination laws could lead to “a grown adult man” with “bad intentions” sneaking into “the little girls’ bathroom.” In May, Sean Hannity mocked inclusive bathroom policies on his radio show, proposing “liberal bathroom areas” where “you can have all the transgendered back-and-forth that you want.” In June, Tucker Carlson called the Democratic National Convention’s gender-neutral bathrooms “disgusting.”
After speaking to officials at 23 school districts and four universities that allow transgender students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, Media Matters failed to find any evidence of incidents of inappropriate bathroom behavior. Law enforcement experts and people who work with survivors of sexual assault have referred to this persistent myth as “beyond specious” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
In fact, school officials and educators’ groups continue to support efforts to boost nondiscriminatory bathroom policies and have pointed out the need for LGBT students to have these types of basic protections. Research shows LGBT students overwhelmingly report experiences of bullying in schools today, and efforts to distract from the needs of LGBT students with fearmongering and mockery certainly don’t help. In its guidelines for supporting transgender and gender diverse students, the American Psychological Association recommends that schools provide accessible facilities that match a student’s gender identity as one way to address the high rates of victimization and hostility transgender students report. In fact, opposition to nondiscrimination policies can further stigmatize and single out transgender students, leading to more reports of bullying and an increased risk of suicide. Advocates for survivors of sexual assault have also pointed out that perpetuating the “bathroom predator” myth can have dangerous consequences: Relying on stereotypical predator imagery to talk about sexual assault diverts attention and resources from finding solutions to keep women and girls safe.
Hours Before Clinton Highlighted Trump’s Racist Supporters, Three “Alt-Right” Leaders Gathered To Salute The GOP Nominee
Prominent white nationalists touted their growing media influence in the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican presidential nomination on a wave of bigoted rhetoric at a September 9 press conference titled “What Is The Alt-Right?”
The press conference, organized by white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), aimed to explain how the “alt-right” -- a movement of fringe modern white supremacists -- had “become a force in American politics in such a short period of time.” The racist movement has garnered renewed interest from media outlets in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s August 25 speech decrying the Trump campaign’s cozy relationship with the movement, including the hiring of Breitbart News executive chairman and alt-right leader Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO.
The press conference featured three prominent white nationalist speakers: NPI president Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right;” Jared Taylor, who publishes the white nationalist online magazine American Renaissance; and Peter Brimelow, who founded the white nationalist anti-immigration site VDare.com.
The press conference came just hours before Clinton told supporters at a fundraiser that half of Trump’s supporters belonged to a “basket of deplorables” -- people who harbor "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” animus who have been “lifted … up” by the Republican nominee. Indeed, the white nationalist movement has provided Trump with some of his most fervent supporters and praised him for helping to grow their ranks.
Spencer began the press conference by noting the “alt-right’s” unprecedented media moment. The movement, which has for years been relegated to the extreme racist fringes of the internet, has broken into the American public’s consciousness, thanks in large part to the “alt-right’s” vocal support of Trump’s anti-immigration platform. “We’re not just some marginal movement that you could dismiss,” Spencer told the room of supporters and journalists. “The fact is our ideas are so powerful that despite the fact that we’re doing all this on a shoe-string, we’re getting at people. We’re affecting them. They know we’re right.”
Indeed, the Trump campaign has helped bring the racist "alt-right" movement into the mainstream -- rubbing elbows with white nationalists, echoing many of their common themes, and demonizing Muslims and immigrants.
That willingness to flirt with the racist fringe is what has captured the imagination of people like Spencer, who see in Trump a "leader" who is willing to shirk norms when talking about race and identity. “He seems to be willing to go there, he seems to be willing to confront people. And that is very different from the cuckold.”
Spencer described Trump’s campaign as a kind of jumping-off point for the “alt-right” -- an opportunity to introduce their pro-white agenda to a broad national audience. “Certainly we have been, you could say, riding his coattails, there’s been more interest in us because we’re generally pro-Trump, because we’re inspired by him and things like that.”
The press conference also featured a significant amount of the explicitly racist rhetoric that one would expect from white nationalists -- Taylor argued that blacks and Latinos are genetically predisposed to have lower IQs and behave less ethically than whites, Spencer waxed poetic about the importance of protecting a white cultural identity in America, and all three speakers expressed concern about the influence of Jewish people in American politics.
But beyond that, the press conference pointed to the speakers’ emerging awareness of the need to transform the “alt-right” from a disorganized and anonymous movement of internet trolls and meme-creators into a serious, professional political movement.
“I think the big challenge for the alt-right is a professionalization,” Spencer told his audience. “We’ve got to have professional organizations, professional people doing it… We want to increase our exposure, increase our influence.”
For the “alt-right” speakers in the room, being Trump supporters, while important, was secondary to their primary goal of advancing their pro-white agenda. Spencer acknowledged that Trump could not fairly be described as “alt-right,” instead describing Trump’s campaign as an opportunity to influence a major political party’s candidate to advance a pro-white agenda.
“We have not been made by Trump but we want to make Trump,” Spencer declared, “and we want to imagine him in our image.”