The right-wing media echo chamber has turned its attention to newly leaked police bodycam footage from George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police, pushing a narrative filled with lies and misrepresentation in an attempt to vilify Floyd, absolve guilty police officers, and blame the mainstream media for mass protests.
The new videos, published by British tabloid the Daily Mail, show Floyd begging for help and resisting getting in a squad car because of his claustrophobia before he was killed by Minneapolis police officers. It remains unclear who shared the footage with the Daily Mail, and Minnesota authorities are investigating the leak’s source.
Citing this footage, a straightforward example of heinous police brutality has been maliciously twisted by right-wing media into unfounded, and frankly offensive, conspiracy theories.
Right-wing media outlets are blaming Floyd’s death on his behavior and drugs
Notable right-wing figures are blaming Floyd’s death on his behavior instead of on blatant police violence. They are utilizing the leaked footage to cast doubt on his cause of death; claiming Floyd’s resistance to the unlawful arrest “complicates” his killing; and repeating talking points about the role of drugs in his death, saying that he had enough fentanyl in his system to cause an overdose. (This overdose claim has been debunked by the findings of the Hennepin County medical examiner: While there were confirmed traces of fentanyl in Floyd’s system, the medical examiner found his cause of death to be “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” — not fentanyl.)
- On the August 4 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News host Tucker Carlson opened coverage of the new footage by setting a conspiratorial tone, saying, “It's striking how little we really know months later about how exactly George Floyd died." He said the new footage shows “from the start, it is clear this is not a typical law enforcement interaction.” Emphasizing that the officers asked Floyd if he was “on something,” Carlson went on to discuss the narcotics found in Floyd’s system, including “more than enough fentanyl to die of an overdose.” “One of the best known symptoms of fentanyl overdose, by the way, is shortness of breath,” he said, implying Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose and pushing a racist myth of a “drug-crazed” person often recited in media coverage after a police officer has killed a Black person.
- The same day, Matt Walsh published an article in The Daily Wire smearing Floyd and absolving the guilty officers who killed him. He wrote: “1. George Floyd was not fully cooperative and clearly intoxicated. 2. The officers were calm and reasonable for most of the interaction. 3. George Floyd claimed that he couldn’t breathe and was going to die well before he had a knee on his neck. 4. The officers never did or said a single thing that any reasonable person could construe as racist.” Walsh continued to falsely claim that Floyd died because of preexisting conditions and not asphyxiation, repeating the discredited fentanyl accusation: “Floyd was not strangled to death and did not die from asphyxiation as the media had so confidently declared in the immediate aftermath. It was found that Floyd — who had a pre-existing heart condition and three illicit drugs in his system, including fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than morphine and known to cause respiratory distress — died of ‘cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression.’”
- Human Events' managing editor Ian Miles Cheong:
- Right-wing podcast host Bill Mitchell:
Conservative media are also attacking mainstream reporting on Floyd's killing and claiming the new video proves race had nothing to do with his death
As mainstream news outlets had correctly reported that Floyd’s killing was a racist incident of police brutality, right-wing figures are now blaming mass protests on the media’s “racially charged” reporting. The right-wing narrative maintains that race had nothing to do with Floyd’s death, now citing the new videos as further evidence supporting this assertion:
- On August 4, Washington Examiner opinion writer Eddie Scarry wrote an article claiming that Floyd’s killing was “more complicated than the liberal media like to portray it,” going on to say, “If anything, the video takes some air out of the idea that Floyd's death was the result of one or more racist officers looking to kill another unarmed black man.” He defended the officers and concluded that there was no evidence indicating that “Floyd was targeted for being black or that the officers believed the actions they took weren't necessary.”
- OutKick writer Jason Whitlock claimed that “no rational person” could watch the new video and conclude that Floyd was targeted because of his race. Andrew Mark Miller, social media producer for the Washington Examiner, amplified Whitlock’s claims about the new footage in a piece which also regurgitated Whitlock’s conclusion that when the officers are acquitted, the media will deserve blame for “the second wave of riots.”
- Carlson also said on his August 4 program: “The media, meantime, aren’t that curious about gathering further details and they’re actively hostile to anyone who is. Ask too many inconvenient and unauthorized questions about George Floyd and you will be banned from the internet.”
- Walsh described mainstream media’s reaction to the new footage as “suspiciously muted.”
By crafting the false narrative that police were merely following protocol and that Floyd was the one who escalated the situation and was somehow responsible for his own death, the right-wing media machine is able to further condemn Floyd and the movement for justice that followed his killing.