Right-wing media dismiss Jen Psaki’s point about Fox’s bad crime coverage by lying that she laughed at spiking violence

Right-wing media used an out-of-context video to claim White House press secretary Jen Psaki had the “nerve” to mock fears about rising crime, when in fact she was mocking Fox News’ terrible coverage of it. 

On January 25, Psaki did a nearly half-hour-long interview on the Pod Save America podcast. Co-host Jon Lovett asked Psaki about “gotcha” questions in the briefing room from Fox’s Peter Doocy, which prompted her to explain the “alternate universe” that Fox presents to its viewers:

Video file

Citation From the January 25, 2021, edition of Pod Save America

JEN PSAKI (WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY): The thing that makes, I think, that makes Republicans crazy, just anecdotally by the hate tweets I get on Twitter when I say this, is that they voted against funding for local cops programs because the American Rescue Plan, also that Biden has supported $300 billion more in funding. And at the same time, he also thinks we need police reform. It’s like, they don’t know what to do with that. But every time we say that, it makes them crazy. 

You know, I think it speaks to, if you look at Fox on a daily basis -- I mean, do you remember the four boxes that we had on all the TVs, right, which is on my TV right now. So right now, just to give you a sense, so CNN, “Pentagon as many as 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert.” OK, true. Same on MSNBC. CNBC is doing their own thing about the market. And then on Fox is Jeannine Pirro talking about soft-on-crime consequences. I mean, what does that even mean, right? So there’s an alternate universe on some coverage. What’s scary about it is a lot of people watch that and they think that the president isn’t doing anything to address people’s safety in New York, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Six days after the interview, the Twitter account for the House Republican Conference took Psaki’s comments out of context and claimed she was mocking so-called consequences of “soft-on-crime” policies while “holding back laughter.” When Psaki was asked about the interview during a January 31 press conference, she encouraged everyone to watch the full conversation and noted that she was talking about a Fox News chyron, which she said “suggested this administration is soft on crime with no basis.”  

Despite the full context and clarification, right-wing media slammed Psaki for being “tone deaf” and supposedly doing so “while people are suffering”:

  • During the January 31 edition of Fox News’ America Reports, co-anchor Sandra Smith accused Psaki of mocking concerns about rising crime. Guest Joe Gamaldi of the National Fraternal Order of Police said Psaki “has the nerve to laugh when we talk about violent crime. I mean, is there a person that is more tone deaf to what is going on in this country right now? She laughs as people are suffering. She laughs as police officers are being shot in the street.”  
  • During the January 31 edition of The Five, co-host Jeanine Pirro accused Psaki of being “so locked up in your ivory tower that you have no idea what Americans really care about and what they’re concerned about.” 
  • During the February 1 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Carly Shimkus falsely claimed “there is record crime across the country” and said Psaki not mentioning that “is a big problem.”    
  • A Fox News chyron on the February 1 edition of America’s Newsroom said “Psaki: Some Crime Concerns in ‘Alternative Universe.’” Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz dared the White House to put up a bill that is just about funding for police and accused the administration of being “totally tone deaf.” 
  • During the February 2 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Nation’s Nancy Grace slammed Psaki for allegedly laughing at Fox’s coverage of the “soft-on-crime” policies and said it makes victims of crime feel “betrayed by our own government.”   
  • Later in the same February 2 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade accused Psaki of “mocking crime” and guest Patrick Yoes of the National Fraternal Order of Police responded that Psaki is “out of touch with literally thousands of Americans whose lives are forever changed.”
  • A January 31 Daily Caller headline claimed Psaki is “dumbfounded” that Republicans are focusing on a so-called “crime wave.” 
  • A January 30 Gateway Pundit article accused Psaki of laughing about crime “from her ivory tower.” 

The reality is that Psaki is right. Fox News’ coverage of “America’s crime crisis” has been riddled with inaccuracies in order to both scare viewers into believing crime is skyrocketing and promote policies that do nothing to serve public safety. 

The reality is that not all types of crime have been increasing. Furthermore, the so-called “soft-on-crime” policies Fox is focusing on -- including bail reform, not prosecuting nonviolent misdemeanors, and reallocating police funds -- don’t necessarily have an effect on the crime rate. In fact, studies have found not prosecuting certain nonviolent misdemeanors and decreasing police presence can actually improve public safety in some cases.