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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media falsely claim FBI, Biden administration are “cooking the books” on crime data

Fox host Greg Gutfeld cited a report published in the Washington Examiner to falsely claim that recent FBI crime data is a “lie” and that Democrats “bribed the FBI to publish this”

Right-wing media are suggesting that the FBI is releasing incorrect data to show crime is decreasing to help President Joe Biden win the 2024 presidential election. 

Conservative media figures are citing a report from the Washington Examiner that points to data showing that crime is up since 2019, claiming that this proves the FBI 2023 crime data is misleading. Yet the piece agrees that there has been a drop in crime from 2022 to 2023, which is what the FBI analysis says.

  • FBI crime statistics show crime continues to trend down since a pandemic spike

    • Preliminary FBI crime statistics for 2023 suggest violent crime is down from a pandemic spike and from 2022. While initial data, based on reports from about 80% of U.S. law enforcement agencies, has been corroborated with external research done by the Council on Criminal Justice, the FBI will not publish finalized data on crime in 2023 until the fall. [The Associated Press, 3/20/24]
  • The Washington Examiner’s analysis shifted the timeline and claimed that the FBI data is misleading

    • The Washington Examiner claimed the FBI was misleading about crime with “bad data” partly by shifting the timeline to look at 2019 to 2023 rather than 2022 to 2023. The Examiner’s report concurred with the FBI’s data that violent crime is down from 2022 but said the drop was less significant. [Washington Examiner, 4/5/24]
    • The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote that the Examiner shifted the timeline in critiquing the data, noting that Fox’s Jesse Walters erroneously used the article to claim the “FBI has been cooking the books.” The Examiner “makes a point that has been made countless times in recent months, a point that Watters tried to use as a gotcha,” Bump wrote. “‘Murders are actually up 23 percent across 70 cities since 2019,’” Watters announced triumphantly. Yeah, man. No kidding. The point is that since 2021, murders are down according to the best national metrics.” [The Washington Post, 4/9/24]
  • Right-wing media claim the FBI’s crime data is wrong, often citing the Examiner and saying the Biden administration or FBI manipulated the numbers

    • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld cited the Washington Examiner report to claim “you” shouldn’t believe crime went down last year because it is a “lie” and a Democrat “bribed the FBI to publish this.” Gutfeld went on to say, “If you think the numbers stink it's because they pulled them out of their ass.” [Fox News, Gutfeld, 4/9/24
    • Fox News host Jesse Watters said the Examiner “did some digging and discovered the FBI’s been cooking the books.” Watters proceeded to claim the “Biden administration is using Enron-style accounting to cook the books on everything from crime to the border to the economy.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/8/24
    • In discussing the Examiner piece, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro claimed that “the FBI is underreporting the number of crimes in this country,” because “the Democrats want power.” Gutfeld responded, “If you look at job reports, COVID, immigration, prices, all data is junk.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/8/24
    • Gutfeld claimed that the Washington Examiner report “completely debunked” the FBI data. [Fox News, The Five, 04/11/24
    • America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh claimed the crime data from the FBI was manipulated, calling it “bullshit” and saying, “They’re cooking the books.” [Fox News, One Nation with Brian Kilmeade, 3/23/24
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt interviewed one of the authors of the Washington Examiner article and claimed, “You also exposed the FBI.” Schmitt added: “The FBI, you say, is misleading the public with its crime data, attempting to make people think it’s safer than it is, because of course the FBI wants to keep Joe Biden in power. They don't want Donald Trump coming back.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 4/10/24]
    • On One America News, retired New Jersey police Lt. Steven Rogers referred to “false statistics” while dismissing low crime rates and claiming that crime is “escalating all over the place.” Rogers went on to say that “we are being lied to by the mainstream media, … White House, … [and] the Democrats” and that it is “propaganda” to say crime is down. [One America News, In Focus with Alison Steinberg, 4/11/24
    • Right-wing blog American Wire claimed “FBI caught lying about crime stats” in its headline. The blog then quoted Watters saying, “The entire Biden administration is a mirage.” [American Wire, 4/9/24]