Fox News ran multiple stories accusing American businesses of being partly to blame for a supposed surge in retail thefts — because of their previous efforts to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Fox's framing of surging crime as the result of efforts to combat police brutality, and the network’s efforts to directly associate Black people with criminality, are part of the network's long history of attacking the rights of racial minority groups.
Friday’s edition of Fox & Friends featured an ominous segment about a “woke-up” call for businesses, as co-host Steve Doocy proclaimed: “Retailers, once supporting defunding police about a year ago — now those retailers are begging Congress to help smash-and-grab robberies impacting them.”
The on-screen text claimed that companies were “calling for help after supporting left-wing police reform.” Doocy later concluded: “If they had a do-over, I wonder how many of those retailers would say, ‘You know what, we’re not going to donate to these organizations.’”
Fox’s purported “straight news” side then delivered a very similar presentation on America’s Newsroom, with co-anchor Bill Hemmer claiming there had been an “about-face” by retail companies that had “once supported the ‘defund the police’ movement.” Fox correspondent Hillary Vaughn then said that congressional Republicans were “calling out the hypocrisy” of those companies, before showing a clip of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claiming “woke corporations” that supported Black Lives Matter and “embraced abolishing the police” had “cynically viewed it as feeding the alligator [and] hoping that he eats them last.”
Fox Business also ran an online article Thursday, titled “‘Woke’ retailers who asked Congress for help amid smash-and-grabs supported left-wing police reforms,” attacking major retail companies for having supported the Black Lives Matters movement and other responses to high-profile incidents of police brutality against Black people in 2020. The article quoted two officials from police associations who claimed that corporations “did not think of anything beyond not being labeled a racist,” and accused them of “amnesia” about purportedly wanting to defund police.
The Fox article also conflated any attempts at police and criminal justice reform with “defunding” the police and endorsing a rise in crime. One sentence read: “Other organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative, the National Urban League and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law advocate for reforms such as how reimagining ‘public safety and community health,’ changing ‘divisive policing policies’ and pushing for bail reform.”
“These organizations also received donations and support from retail stores calling for action in combating smash-and-grab crimes,” the article continued. But actually clicking through some of the provided links would show that Fox was obfuscating what those phrases actually meant. For example, when the National Urban League called for changing “divisive policing policies,” the specific policy changes that it detailed were to “ban chokeholds and strangleholds, no knock-warrants, and shooting at moving vehicles,” and to require officers to de-escalate violence while allowing the use of force only when “necessary” rather than a “reasonable” standard.
It is unclear, to say the least, how demanding higher standards of law enforcement and limiting their use of force against civilians would also be in conflict with retail stores wanting to stop robberies.
The exact request that the businesses are making is for Congress to support a bipartisan bill called the INFORM Consumers Act, intended to make it more difficult to sell stolen or counterfeit goods online. The Fox article in turn quoted multiple House Republicans making such declarations as, “Help them directly? Hell No”; and, “This is what happens to the woke, they reap what they sow. What did they expect would happen?”
Just to be clear, organized retail thefts appear to be more of a media craze than a pervasive danger in everyday society. A report this week in the Los Angeles Times found that organized retail thefts could amount to as little as 0.07% of total sales. While smash-and-grabs may be increasing somewhat — up from 0.045% of sales in 2015 — their recent notoriety likely comes not from a nonstop wave of criminal behavior but rather from increased online visibility and the easy dissemination of surveillance camera videos. (And the practice isn’t some new invention, either, but has existed for many years.)
Of course, one of the prominent media outlets that is replaying the same few surveillance videos over and over is Fox News. The network is undoubtedly aware that stories like these perpetuate dangerous racial stereotypes by representing Black people as criminals. Fox's disdainful misrepresentation can only be understood as being in service of the network's political agenda, which aims to smear progressive reform efforts and further ostracize minority groups.