For Fox News, There’s No Collective Blame When Political Cop Killers Are White
Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
"How do you stop a lunatic? ... This is not a political issue.” Andrea Tantaros on Fox News in 2012 after a racist skinhead shot a police officer in Wisconsin during a rampage.
Stampeding their way to the Blame Game starting gate, Fox News commentators have been relentless in their recent claims that President Barack Obama himself deserves blame for the deadly gun rampage in Dallas last week that left five police officers dead. And when not casting collective blame on Obama, Fox talkers and other right-wing media commentators have been targeting Black Lives Matter activists for supposedly cultivating the mass shooting -- a shooting that has been denounced by Black Lives Matter leaders.
Refusing to acknowledge that the Dallas gun massacre has anything to do with America’s runaway mass shooting problem, conservatives have instead focused their attention on assigning political guilt via a mile-wide net.
But there’s a nasty hypocrisy at the root of this Blame Game, and it revolves around how Fox News and the conservative press traditionally treat political cop killers who are white, and how there’s no collective guilt associated with those deadly attacks. (As the Daily Beast noted in 2014, right-wing, anti-government extremists represent America’s top cop killers.)
The hypocrisy has been on vivid display in recent days. Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson claimed Obama’s speech last week “helped to stoke” the Dallas killings. A recent Fox panel of talkers attacked Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton and Obama for legitimizing the “violent” Black Lives Matter movement. (Rush Limbaugh last week denounced the organization as a “terrorist group committing hate crimes.”) Additionally, Sheriff David Clarke, a Fox News regular, derided “cop-hater in chief Barack Obama” and blamed him for the recent upheaval.
We’ve seen this kind of ugly finger-pointing before with regard to police shootings.
In December 2013, when Ismaaiyl Brinsley reportedly shot his ex-girlfriend, and then assassinated two New York City police officers, before killing himself on a city subway platform, Fox News hosts and guests immediately pinned the blame on President Obama, then-Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Why them? Because they had spoken out about the troubled relationship between law enforcement and the black community in the wake of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men in the custody of police.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox viewers that Obama was guilty of incendiary "propaganda" that suggested "everybody should hate the police." (Obama has never said anything like that.)
But how does Fox News deal with deadly, ambush attacks on the police when the perpetrator isn’t black, and when the perpetrator is often tied to right-wing, anti-government politics? At Fox News and the rest of the conservative media, the response is entirely different. If they even bother to treat right-wing attacks on police officers as news, they routinely ignore any political ramifications and are quick to insist the ugly bouts of violence don’t have any larger meaning; that they’re simply isolated episodes of mad men and are absolutely void of movement politics.
In other words, there is no collective blame.
On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis, AR, police officers were shot and killed by a father and son team during a routine traffic stop. The shooters were AK-47-wielding sovereign citizens with ties to white supremacy groups and who had posted anti-government rants on YouTube. (Sovereign citizens are militia-like radicals who don't believe the federal government has the power and legitimacy to enforce the law.)
None of Fox News’ primetime programs covered the story in the week after the shootings, according to Nexis.
In June 2014, claiming to be acting under the bloody "banner of Liberty and Truth," Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda entered a restaurant Las Vegas and executed two local policemen while they ate lunch. Six days earlier, the shooter posted a manifesto on Facebook where he announced "we must … prepare for war."
Jerad Miller, who traveled to Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch that spring to join the militia protests against the federal government, declared: "To stop this oppression, I fear, can only be accomplished with bloodshed." And according to an NBC News report, the shooter had talked to his neighbor about his "desire to overthrow the government and President Obama and kill police officers."
To this day, “Jerad Miller” has only been mentioned once -- by a guest -- on Fox News’ primetime shows in connection to the Las Vegas cop killings, according to a Nexis search. Which indicates there was no attempt by Fox’s evening talkers to blame any political players for that deadly police ambush.
That Las Vegas police attack unfolded just two days after a member of the "sovereign citizen" anti-government movement waged a brief war outside a courthouse near Atlanta. Dennis Marx came supplied with an assault weapon, "homemade and commercial explosive devices," as well as "a gas mask; two handguns; zip ties and two bulletproof vests," according to the Associated Press. He opened fire, shooting one deputy in the leg.
Fox News barely covered the Marx attack on law enforcement, and there was no widespread attempt to assign collective blame.
In September 2014 marksman Eric Frein reportedly was lying in wait outside the Blooming Grove police barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania, preparing to assassinate state troopers. That night, state police officer Bryon Dickson was shot and killed as he walked toward his patrol car. The shooter "made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and to commit mass acts of murder," Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner warned the public at the time.
Frein, a survivalist with strong anti-government leanings, then disappeared into the mountains and remained at large for weeks. In the wake of the assassination, Fox’s primetime programs mentioned Frein's name in just six reports, according to Nexis transcripts. And there was no strong focus on the killer’s anti-government leanings.
When Frein was finally captured in late October, Fox News covered the story a handful of times. But there was no emphasis on his possible anti-government motivations and why the "survivalist" set out to assassinate law enforcement officers.
And note that back in 2012, racist skinhead Wade Michael Page started killing worshipers at an Oak Creek, WI, Sikh temple, and then waited for the police to arrive before murdering an officer. The gunman was a white supremacist who “called non-whites ‘dirt people,’” and was interested in joining the Ku Klux Klan, according to acquaintances.
On Fox’s The Five, when Democratic former co-host Bob Beckel referred to Page as a "right-wing skinhead," he was quickly shouted down by his colleagues. Co-host Andrea Tantaros insisted the killing was an isolated event that didn't have any larger implications. "How do you stop a lunatic?" she asked. "This is not a political issue."
Note to Fox News: Following Dallas, you can’t have it both ways.