In 2022, Fox News created a crime crisis in a failed attempt to sway the midterms
Fox News centered much of its reporting in 2022 around fearmongering about a supposed “crime crisis” — a misleading narrative that was largely created by its own relentless coverage. By focusing on racist stereotypes, smearing progressive prosecutors, and pushing conspiracy theories, Fox News made crime one of the biggest perceived ailments in the country and pushed far-right policy prescriptions ahead of the election.
From the start, Fox used the issue of crime to push right-wing narratives. The media outlet began the year by describing America as a country experiencing anarchy and lawlessness. Fox News personalities focused their coverage on Democratic-led cities like Chicago and New York, dubbing the issue a “Blue-City Crime Crisis.” However, the facts don’t support these claims: According to FBI statistics, violent crime actually decreased overall in 2021, and the largest increases of murder rates were in Republican-controlled states.
Despite the rise in crime not being a story backed by hard evidence in the statistics, Fox News still found ways to focus on the drama of a crime crisis — particularly in the lead up to the 2022 midterms, when Fox News devoted 11% of its coverage to crime. As The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump noted, “Stories of violent incidents, always catnip for newscasts, are used to portray a sense of crime that may or may not comport with reality. And Fox News has been very active in trying to portray exactly that sense.”
The network’s misleading crime coverage in 2022 included calls for more draconian solutions. Fox personalities began arguing for a return to “Broken Windows” policing, which involves aggressive enforcement and harsher sentences for lower level crimes. In reality, there is no evidence that this strategy works as a deterrent to reduce crime, and other heavy-handed policing tactics based on the broken windows theory have been found to significantly discriminate against Black Americans and other minority groups.
The talking heads on Fox also targeted progressive prosecutors, smearing their efforts at reforms as “pro-criminal” and often linking their criticisms to Jewish philanthropist George Soros — a frequent focus of antisemitic conspiracy theories from the right. In reality, there does not appear to be a significant trend of crime rising in Democratic-led cities with progressive prosecutors. In fact, there is no evidence that rising crime rates are related only to prosecutorial discretion or ending cash bail.
Rather than reporting the real news about crime in the U.S., Fox chose to fearmonger with racism and antisemitic conspiracy theories. Here’s a look at how the network used crime coverage to push a far-right political agenda throughout 2022.
Exploiting crime coverage to push blatant racism
Much of Fox News’ crime coverage in 2022 echoed racist tropes about “Black-on-Black crime” in an apparent effort to undermine police reforms and focus attention on racial divisions in America.
- Criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement in January, Fox host Jesse Watters pushed the racist narrative that “police officers are almost always saving Black lives from Black-on-Black crime.”
- In April, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson claimed traffic fatalities rose because police were scared of pulling over Black people after protests over the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
- Carlson later blamed murders on “the equity agenda as applied to law enforcement” and said its supporters should “have to live in neighborhoods like that” and “experience the effects of your policies.”
- In June, Watters claimed the media is “padding the numbers with Black-on-Black crime” to justify taking guns from “law-abiding citizens.”
- On Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest Victor Davis Hanson said “African American males” are responsible for a “crime wave” because some of them “feel, one way or another, there's no deterrent left.”
- Fox & Friends Weekend blamed rising crime on lack of school suspensions, which disproportionately impact Black children. Co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that teachers and police are both “afraid” that “if they punish somebody and they’re a certain color or race, that they’ll be, you know, called out as a racist.”
Attacking progressive prosecutors and fearmongering about George Soros
Fox News’ attacks on progressive prosecutors frequently pushed the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros is trying to sow chaos in America and increase crime, mainly by donating to Democratic district attorneys who support police reforms, despite there being no evidence that progressive prosecutors have a negative impact on crime rates.
- Fox News championed the campaign to oust former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, often citing Boudin’s progressive reforms and his support from Soros.
- Fox & Friends Weekend co-hosts preemptively pushed back against charges of antisemitism as they continued their paranoid fixation with Soros and made claims tying his support for progressive district attorneys to crime in America. Co-host Will Cain even argued that “our crime philosophy in the United States of America is driven by George Soros’ vision.”
- Fox News repeatedly supported attempts to impeach Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner in part due to funding his campaign received from Soros.
- The Five co-host Katie Pavlich claimed Soros has a “long history of sowing chaos within a country to destroy the country and tear it down.”
- Fox hosts lashed out when Krasner confronted them with the facts on high crime in Republican-led states.
Utilizing bogus narratives about crime to sway elections and drive the GOP base
As the midterms approached Fox News constantly pointed to crime as a top issue for voters, frequently claiming that the crisis the network had largely manufactured was out of control and suggesting Republicans were the only legislators who could stop it.
- Ahead of midterms, Fox leaned into fearmongering about “America's crime crisis” and promoted conservative policies and more policing to fix it.
- Tucker Carlson acted as a GOP midterms strategist when he told Republican politicians to focus on crime messaging against Democrats.
- Fox News repeatedly misled viewers about then-Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman's record on policing and crime.
- In September, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro claimed Chicago has “been destroyed” and is “descending into anarchy.”
- After a disappointing midterm result for the GOP, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed crime is still a problem for Democrats in 2024: “Even early voting will not be enough to save them the next time.”
Pushing right-wing crime narratives into mainstream news coverage
Mainstream news also used right-wing talking points to suggest that crime was going to be an issue in the elections and often used debunked conservative narratives about crime in blue states. This punditry largely relied on Republican polling and ads rather than genuine public outcry, echoing Fox’s overwhelming coverage of the “crime crisis.”
- Mainstream media coverage of crime pushed right-wing narratives blaming Democrats, even though crime is worse in GOP-controlled areas.
- MSNBC's Morning Joe in particular echoed many right-wing talking points on policing and crime ahead of the 2022 midterms.
- Just before midterms, CNN's new morning show promoted right-wing talking points about the election and crime during its first week on-air.