On April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Many in right-wing media used the verdict to dismiss criticisms of the criminal justice system and to insist systemic racism is not real.
Following the conviction, many pointed out that a guilty verdict, while a form of accountability for the individual officer, did not amount to justice for the cruelty inflicted upon Black communities by the policing and criminal justice systems overall. President Joe Biden, speaking after the verdict was announced, called systemic racism a “stain on our nation.” Many activists cast the moment as a step toward larger systemic change rather than as total justice for the ongoing issues of racism and police violence.
Conservative media responded to this sentiment incredulously, pointing to the guilty verdict as an example of the criminal justice system functioning as it should and as supposed evidence that systemic racism is not as widespread as some claim. Right-wing media also complained that the somber and conflicted emotional reaction expressed by many in response to the conviction reveals that those on the left will never be satisfied, even when getting what they wanted in a guilty verdict.
This response to the notion that systemic racism still exists is consistent with conservative media’s reactions in the immediate aftermath of the verdict announcement; many lashed out over the decision by insisting that the trial was damaged by the threat of protesters, defending Chauvin’s actions, or arguing that evidence wasn’t presented to a sufficient standard to convict him.
Here is how right-wing media used Chauvin’s murder conviction to defend the criminal justice system and deny systemic racism:
- The Washington Examiner ran an article on a segment from Fox host Laura Ingraham calling systemic racism “the Left’s ‘big lie.’”
- The Federalist published an article claiming “Chauvin’s conviction will never be enough for a Democratic party bent on destruction.”
- On Fox News Primetime, Fox senior legal analyst Brit Hume said that a “great many Americans” would be “dubious” that “Floyd’s death was an example of systemic racism,” adding that he doesn’t “think Americans mostly think our country is systemically racist.” Hume questioned whether “any nation on Earth has ever made more strenuous efforts to overcome racial discrimination than this nation has.”
- On conservative commentary network The First, host Bill O’Reilly said that Chauvin’s conviction shows that the idea of systemic racism and white supremacy is a “lie” from “the anti-American movement.”
- Fox & Friends guest co-host Pete Hegseth asked frequent Fox guest Leo Terrell if the conviction will “change the left's view that America is racist” and whether it is “demonstrative of progress” or “will it just be the next thing that happens?” Terrell responded that “people on the left” and “extremists” are “unhappy” with the convictions because “they want chaos” and will continue to “disrupt the American way of life,” adding, “If there was peace, tranquility, no so-called racism, they wouldn't have an argument. You cannot appease criminals.”
- The Daily Wire published an article claiming that Biden took “aim at America” by saying that systemic racism is a “stain on our nation’s soul.”
- Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren tweeted:
- Responding to Biden’s remarks, Free Beacon contributor Noah Pollak claimed that systemic racism is a “perfect Marxist formulation” and “genius propaganda.”
- On Fox’s Faulkner Focus, former co-chair of Black Voices for Trump T.W. Shannon said that there is a “false narrative that there is a systemic police racism problem in America” when “the reality is it's not.” Shannon added that the U.S. is “still a land of opportunity, not a place of systemic racism,” but “unfortunately we have race-baiters out there who will continue … to tell that story.”
- On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich asked, “If we were in fact systemically racist, how did the system convict a white policeman?” He added that the guilty verdict proved that “the system worked.” Gingrich and anchor Maria Bartiromo proceeded to question how the U.S. can have a systemic racism problem when former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris were elected.
- On America’s Newsroom, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said that it’s “pretty obvious that” Chauvin “was way outside the norm.” Carson added that “to take what [Chauvin] did and make that seem like the norm that requires a dissection of the police department in Minneapolis seems a little bit extreme.”
- Shortly after the verdict was announced, right-wing commentator Erick Erickson tweeted: