Right-wing media argue Rayshard Brooks' police slaying was justified, blame him for his death

Update (6/16/20): This piece has been updated with additional examples.

Soon after police shot and killed Black Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks on Friday night, right-wing media personalities began arguing that his slaying was justified. According to their arguments, once a person begins resisting arrest, their possible death is entirely a result of their own actions. Washington Times columnist Ralph Hallow, described by the paper as its “chief political correspondent of commentary,” went beyond the pale -- claiming some Black Americans consider resisting arrest “cool and even expected behavior” and calling them “America’s under-educated, crime-prone underclass,” an overtly racist statement.

Police were called after Brooks had apparently fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru line at a Wendy’s. Video from the scene where Brooks was killed showed him resisting arrest after being tested with a Breathalyzer, fighting with two officers, grabbing a taser as he ran away, then being shot by police as he apparently turned and pointed the taser at the officers. The county medical examiner determined Brooks was shot twice in the back. The officer who killed Brooks was quickly fired, and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned.

Soon after the video of the shooting was made public, right-wing media personalities began blaming Brooks for his death and declaring his killing by the police justified. Many of them suggested that resisting arrest or taking one of the officers’ tasers made police killing Brooks inevitable.

  • A blogger on the conservative website RedState wrote on Saturday, “I predict it is going to turn out that this shooting was justified under any ‘Use of Force’ policy — Atlanta PD or any other law enforcement agency.”
  • On Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine, frequent channel guest Bernie Kerik said: “Don't assault our police. Don't resist arrest. … Don’t take their tasers.” Fox contributor Dan Bongino said that the only other option was allowing Brooks to run away and that police were justified in using “an equal or superseding amount of force to stop” him.
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Citation From the June 13, 2020, edition of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine

  • Right-wing activist Candace Owens, who previously mocked Black Americans’ anger over police killings as acting like “trained chimpanzee[s],” wrote on Twitter Sunday that Brooks “was JUSTIFIABLY fired on.”
  • Fox host Mark Levin posted a series of tweets about the shooting, in which he emphasized cooperation with police and wrote: “You certainly don't resist arrest. And you certainly don't assault the officer and seize one of his weapons.”
  • On Fox & Friends Weekend, Bongino again suggested the only option for police other than shooting Brooks was letting him run away. He agreed with co-host Pete Hegseth, saying “none of this would have happened” if Brooks hadn’t resisted arrest.
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Citation From the June 14, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Weekend

  • The headline of an op-ed published by the conservative Washington Examiner called Brooks’ killing “tragic, but justifiable.”
  • On Fox’s The Next Revolution, Kerik again blamed Brooks for his death: “I think the general public forgets you can't attack or assault a cop. You can't resist arrest. You can't obstruct or interfere with somebody else's arrest. You can't run from the police.”
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Citation From the June 14, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Next Revolution

  • Right-wing One America News host Liz Wheeler shared the Examiner op-ed on Twitter on Monday with the comment: “Lawful, but awful.”
  • On Fox & Friends on June 15, Bongino again said police were justified in using lethal force against Brooks and, responding to a question about what he would have done, said: “Not much different.”
  • Washington Times columnist Ralph Hallow wrote racist commentary about the shooting, calling Black Americans “America’s under-educated, crime-prone underclass” and claiming, “The problem is that a portion of Americans of African descent have come to consider the crime of resisting arrest and assaulting police officers as cool and even expected behavior.”
  • Fox host Jesse Watters said Brooks’ killing was justified because maybe he could have tased the officers, stolen a gun, and killed them.
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Citation From the June 15, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

  • Fox host Tucker Carlson: “Unjustified police killings have happened in America. This is not one of them.”
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Citation From the June 15, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • On Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson repeatedly implied the only alternative to the police shooting Brooks was to not do anything.
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Citation From the June 15, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder said on Fox’s Hannity that every officer he talked to said Brooks’ killer “did everything by the book” and he further justified the shooting by suggesting the officers didn’t know if Brooks was pointing a handgun or a taser.
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Citation From the June 15, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • On Tuesday, conservative blogger Erick Erickson justified Brooks’ killing by police, writing, “If you or I caused a tense situation, fought the police, grabbed a taser, and turned to fire it at an officer, we could presume we would be shot just like Mr. Brooks.”