Right-wing media cherry-pick holiday weekend violence to fearmonger about Chicago

Conservative media cherry-picked nationwide shootings over the July 4 holiday weekend to primarily focus on those in Chicago, continuing a years-long narrative of exploiting gun violence in liberal, urban areas to attack Democratic policies. 

According to data compiled by Gun Violence Archive, at least 189 people were fatally shot and 516 were injured over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Between the evenings of July 2 and July 5, there were more than 540 shootings across the country, including in Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada. But conservative media outlets largely ignored gun violence in those states to focus on Chicago.

The city did see a lot of gun violence over the weekend, with at least 101 shot and 16 killed. But contrary to conservative media’s framing, Chicago is not the most violent city in the country and hasn’t even been close for years. It has tight gun violence prevention laws, and nearly 60% of the guns used in crimes within the city come from surrounding states with much looser laws. 

But conservative media still treat Chicago as a boogeyman. They routinely and dishonestly use gun violence as a way to try and prove Democratic-controlled cities are crumbling and gun violence prevention does not work -- and to fearmonger about Black-on-Black crime (as violence in Chicago is largely concentrated in minority communities).   

Right-wing media coverage of this year’s Fourth of July weekend violence was no different. Rather than highlight that there were more than 500 shootings across the country, perhaps indicating a nationwide epidemic, most outlets shrank the gun violence down to Chicago and targeted the city’s Democratic mayor, Lori Lightfoot:

  • A July 7 Federalist article noted the fatalities in Chicago from the holiday weekend, called the city’s gun violence “out of control” and claimed, “Lightfoot’s city is falling to pieces, but she refuses to effectively address the problem.”  
  • During the July 6 edition of Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus, guest host Gillian Turner briefly mentioned that the weekend’s violence was not restricted to Chicago, but she still focused most of the segment on that city. Fox’s Rachel Campos-Duffy said crime is terrorizing Chicago residents and played into an antisemitic trope by saying that crime in the city is a direct result of Democratic district attorneys funded by George Soros who “are just letting criminals off.” She also blamed the violence on an “anti-police mentality” -- led by Democratic activists and “implemented” by Lightfoot -- and other Democratic “social policies that are breaking down the family, and especially the Black family, [and] discouraging family formation.” 
  • A July 6 Breitbart headline wrote that nearly 100 people were shot “in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago.” 
  • In a July 6 article, The Washington Times centered a story on Chicago, writing that the violence “spiked” in the city over the holiday weekend and has the mayor “on defense.” 
  • In another July 6 Washington Times article, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce highlighted the weekend’s violence in Chicago and wrote that residents live in an “urban war zone.” She went on to write, “Democratic policies and attitudes end up destroying people’s lives.” 
  • The Washington Examiner called July 4 “another violent weekend” for Chicago, before insinuating that the rise in violent crime may be exacerbated by “tension at the national level over funding for police departments.”  

In reality, 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in America in decades and that does not appear to be changing in 2021. As much as conservative media pontificate about the Chicago “war zone” and crumbling Democratic cities, this violence is not restricted to blue, urban areas -- and pretending that it is does the whole country disservice.