Police brace for protests after Tyre Nichols' death
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Fox News fearmongered about riots following footage release of Tyre Nichols’ killing. Protests were mostly peaceful.

In the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the release of footage of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, Fox News repeatedly fearmongered about the likelihood of violent riots.

Following its playbook from the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Fox News cited a seemingly inauthentic anti-fascist poster to warn its viewers that agitators would descend upon major U.S. cities, burning and destroying things in the name of defunding the police.

But riots never happened. Protests over the killing of Tyre Nichols remained overwhelmingly peaceful throughout the weekend, spurring Fox to air some concessions. But the rare acknowledgements of peace hardly balanced out the hand-wringing.

  • In an interview with former Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on the upcoming protests, Fox & Friends co-host Will Cain speculated, “How many vested interests out there are already planting the seeds of something much more destructive?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/27/23]

  • Fox host Lawrence Jones: “I think we should be bracing for the worst tonight. … I don't think it’s smart to release the video tonight. Go ahead and just release it this morning, so we can have infrastructure put in place, bring in the National Guard in cities, because we don't want a repeat of the Floyd situation.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/27/23]

  • Fox guest Jonna Spilbor claimed the family’s request for people to protest peacefully would “fall on deaf ears.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 1/27/23]

  • Fox co-hosts criticized previous protests in response to police brutality and warned against getting to “an overreaction point like we saw during George Floyd.” Co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery added that the same way the cops were comfortable with killing Nichols on camera, “it's the same way people get comfortable burning down entire cities. It becomes this mob mentality and you give in to that anger in the moment and it's as though the rational part of your brain is completely cut off." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/27/23]

  • Fox correspondent Leo Terrell: “I'm anticipating professional agitators, as Ted Williams said, to act up and to create havoc. Unfortunately, this is what is going on in these Democratic cities. You have a situation where there is a horrific crime, where these officers are being charged. We got to let the process play out. I want to see the videotape. But I'm hoping that there is a minimization of crime throughout the nation on this issue.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 1/27/23]

  • Fox host Brian Kilmeade criticized the decision to release the bodycam footage on Friday night, saying, “We’re watching the press conference with the police officers and they’re saying, this is one of the worst things they've ever seen. Stay tuned for tomorrow night. I mean, it's almost as if they’re queuing up our programming … and getting everyone ready.” Kilmeade continued, “My feeling is that people have had so long to get in place and think about it, we’re all ready for something horrific, that we’re kind of setting ourselves up to see things burn. If this does work, this is the new template.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/27/23]

  • In a report about President Joe Biden’s response to the killing of Nichols, Special Report aired a clip of correspondent Peter Doocy asking White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, “Why doesn't [Biden] want to speak directly to the American people now that some of these cities are bracing, potentially this weekend for riots?” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/27/23]

  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters hosted former police Det. Rob O’Donnell, who said there was a poster circulating that was “put out by antifa” and it’s “calling for protests and riots at all police precincts across the city, to bring rocks, to bring pipes, to bring box cutters,” noting that it’s “circulating in the underground of New York City.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/27/23]

  • Watters also criticized the timing of the footage’s release, insinuating that it was a deliberate attempt to inspire violent riots: “They waited until sundown on Friday night to put out a body cam that’s going to fire up a lot of people. Cities across America are bracing for riots.” He later asked correspondent Steve Harrigan if people protesting “look[ed] like professional protesters to you, people that you usually see at racial justice protests.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/27/23]

  • Watters hosted Woodson Center President Bob Woodson, who stoked fears of outside agitators infiltrating protests “who are going to exploit this situation for political purposes and do what they’ve done in Ferguson.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/27/23]

  • Host Tucker Carlson warned of “race riots” and claimed that “the violence expected in Memphis tonight is not organic. … Because similar violence is also expected tonight in cities across the country.” He then claimed “antifa is coordinating riots on both coasts and in between” and characterized the group as “a political militia.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/27/23]

  • Fox correspondent Christina Coleman said on The Ingraham Angle that “antifa put out this bulletin, calling for violence, even though Tyre's own family has called for peace.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/27/23]

  • Anchor Shannon Bream began a segment discussing  Nichols’ death by noting that the summer 2020 George Floyd protests resulted in “more than a dozen people died and the destruction caused by those protests cost insurance companies upwards of $1 billion.” She concluded the segment by warning, “There were people who weren’t directly involved in these issues but simply wanted to use them as an advantage or an effort to take an advantage that was not about trying to bring about not justice; it was other selfish means.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/27/23]

  • Will Cain opened a segment by claiming that protests are “raging across the country following the release of bodycam footage showing the deadly interaction between Memphis police and Tyre Nichols,” while airing video footage of peaceful protesters in New York City milling about. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 1/29/23]