O'Reilly Cherry-Picks Debunked Statistics To Downplay Racial Disparities In Police Shootings

Bill O'Reilly cited debunked statistics to claim that more white than black Americans are killed by police officers in the wake of the fatal South Carolina police shooting of an unarmed black man. 

A police officer was charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in North Charleston, South Carolina on April 7, as reported by The New York Times. The Times noted that “the shooting came on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers' using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether the police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.” 

On the April 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly condemned the South Carolina shooting, but used the opportunity to claim that “police shootings of black Americans” have fallen “70 percent in the last 40, 50 years,” concluding that the statistics show “they're way, way down.” O'Reilly cited the statistic to assert that “there doesn't seem to be, as some people would have you believe, that police are trying to hunt down young black men and take their lives.” 

But O'Reilly's statistics were debunked months ago when he initially cited them to claim that more white Americans are killed in police shootings than black Americans. Politifact called O'Reilly's claim “mostly false,” noting that he relied on “shaky” statistics that fail to “paint a complete picture” due to a lack of comprehensive national data on fatal shootings by police officers.

Furthermore, O'Reilly's statistics do not account for the disproportionate number of unarmed black Americans killed by police in the United States. As FiveThirtyEight notes:

In 2014 and March of 2015, Mapping Police Violence counted 297 people killed by police around the country who were unarmed. Of those people, 117 were African-American, 167 were not, and the project couldn't identify race for 13. That means 41 percent of unarmed people killed by police during that time in the database (with an identified race) were African-American, far out of proportion in a country that was 14 percent African-American in 2013.

And according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), African Americans are the second “racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement,” following Native Americans. The CJCJ also noted

African Americans, 13 percent of the population, are victims in 26 percent of police shootings. Law enforcement kills African Americans at 2.8 times the rate of white non-Latinos, and 4.3 times the rate of Asians.