Right-wing media respond to Waukesha tragedy with bigoted tropes and baseless attacks on progressives and Black Lives Matter

Update (11/29/21): This piece has been updated with an additional example.

After a driver barreled through a parade killing at least six people in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, right-wing media began to politicize the incident before all details were known, disseminating narratives erroneously connecting the incident to the Black Lives Matter movement, attacking progressive prosecutors and bail reform, and pushing baseless accusations of terrorism. 

At the time of this article’s publication, it’s been confirmed that a man drove his SUV through barricades at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, killing six people and injuring more than 40. A suspect was subsequently arrested by local police and taken into custody, where he has been charged with multiple counts of intentional homicide. His motives are not yet clear, but Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson has said there is “no evidence this is a terrorist incident.” 

    Right-wing media tried to falsely link the attack to the Black Lives Matter movement, with some figures claiming the incident was retribution for the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Some called the arrested man a BLM activist, but as the Daily Beast shows, these claims are baseless. 

    • On his show, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said, “A BLM-incorporated leader drove through the holiday parade" in Wisconsin. Additionally, Kirk called the alleged attacker a “Black supremacist terrorist.” 
    • The Daily Wire published an article fearmongering about supposed unrest in response to the Rittenhouse verdict. The article claimed that a Black Lives Matter activist had suggested the Waukesha attack was a response to the Rittenhouse case. 
    • Daily Wire host Candace Owens tweeted, “Of course we all know the truth. Black men are the most murderous group in America and their victims are mostly other black people. It has nothing to do with white supremacy, but the media and politicians lie so that we never fix the real issue. BLM guarantees more black death.” 
    • Raheem Kassam, co-founder of Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room: Pandemic tweeted, “So are we going to talk about how a BLM supporter committed a murderous domestic terror attack yesterday?”
    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh tweeted, “We are already being told that Waukesha isn't terrorism and it wasn't racially motivated, even though the suspect appears to be a BLM supporter.”
    • Conservative political columnist Benny Johnson linked the suspect to BLM in a tweet: “HORROR IN THE HEARTLAND: BLM Supporting, Cop Hating, Black Supremacist Commits MASS MURDER At CHRISTMAS PARADE in Wisconsin.”
    • Townhall editor Matt Vespa tweeted, “Liberal America is awfully quiet about an alleged BLM supporter who plowed through a Christmas parade and murdered 5 innocent ppl and wounded 40 more ... inc. 18 kids.” 
    • Right wing journalist and provocateur Andy Ngo tweeted, “The man in custody over the mass casualty incident at the #Waukesha, Wis. Christmas parade has posts on his social media in support of BLM causes, George Floyd & black nationalism. He also has a post about how to get away with running people over on the street.”

    Others in right-wing media almost immediately began using racist tropes to cover the tragedy and the accused man (who is Black); a Fox News guest even went as far as to use the tragedy to baselessly attack immigrants. 

    • Before the accused man was officially identified, former right-wing British politician Nigel Farage went on an anti-immigrant tirade on Fox & Friends, baselessly likening the Wisconsin incident to a terrorist attack carried out by an immigrant in the U.K. and claiming stricter policies are needed to prevent attacks like the one in Waukesha. Co-host Will Cain agreed with Farage, saying that by “allowing mass groups of people to come in," you "just create vulnerability on top of vulnerability.” 
    • Right-wing author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza promoted the racist stereotype that Black men are more dangerous than white men when he tweeted “Rhetoric vs reality” with two images juxtaposing a CNN article titled, “There’s nothing more frightening today than an angry White man,” and a mugshot of the man accused of the Waukesha attack.
    • The National Wire published an article that referred to the accused man as a “BLM Rapper.”

    Once the accused man’s identity became known, right-wing media personalities took the fact that the man had reportedly been released on $1,000 bail on November 11 for charges including domestic abuse to attack progressive bail reform policies. The decision for this bail price is currently under review by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office. Some also promoted the antisemitic conspiracy theory that billionaire George Soros, a frequent boogeyman of the right, has been funding progressive prosecutors whose reforms have supposedly caused crime waves in major cities. There is a documented history of media outlets misleadingly portraying bail reform as a detriment to public safety, a narrative that fits neatly with right-wing media's insistence that there is a crime wave occurring in the U.S. due to Democratic leadership. 

    • The New York Post published an article headlined, “Waukesha Christmas parade horror made possible by bail reforms.”
    • Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro blamed “left-wing prosecutors” for the tragedy on his podcast episode titled, “Left-Wing Prosecutors Get Americans Killed.” He claimed that this is a result of lower bail reform and said Soros has changed “prosecutorial strategy” dramatically by pouring millions of dollars into prosecutorial races. 
    • Right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich tweeted, “Waukesha massacre suspect Darrell Edward Brooks was released from Milwaukee County jail on $1,000 bail earlier this week. Here is Soros affiliated Milwaukee district attorney John Chisholm bragging about abolishing bail and congratulating other Soros DAs.” He included images of tweets celebrating bail reform efforts. 
    • RedState published an article claiming the assistant district attorney who handled the accused man’s previous criminal case “is also a big promoter of cash bail, sometimes called ‘bail reform,’ which has routinely put violent criminals back on the streets to commit more crimes in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.” 
    • While discussing the tragedy, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that those who believe the current bail system upholds racism have “a diseased way of thinking. It's how cult leaders and dictators think. It's not a western world view.”
    Video file

    Citation From November 23, 2021, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

    • James Rosen of Sinclair Broadcast Group tried to connect the tragedy to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “urging New York prosecutors to put an end to, quote, ‘excessive bail requirements.’”
    Video file

    Citation From a November 23, 2021, Sinclair Broadcast Group national segment

    Right-wing media also used the incident to attack mainstream media and stir up baseless fears that the true motives or details of the attack would be obscured. 

    • Right-wing troll Jack Posobiec claimed baselessly on Twitter that “CNN will act like Waukesha never happened.” 
    • Conservative podcaster Matt Walsh claimed that an unnamed “they” never disclosed the motive for the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, adding, “I strongly suspect that the same thing is about to happen in Waukesha.” 
    • Townhall published an op-ed titled, “Here's the Sick Response an Illinois Democrat Had Regarding the Wisconsin Christmas Rampage,” that quoted the social media director for a local Illinois Democratic Party chapter who tied the Wisconsin tragedy to the Rittenhouse trial. The article then claimed, “MSNBC and others will have similar takes over the next few days.” 
    • Conservative podcaster Steven Crowder accused the media of “anti-white” racism by drawing comparisons to Rittenhouse, saying, “We cannot find common ground if you don’t realize the difference between Kyle Rittenhouse ... and somebody who deliberately plows through innocent women and children at a parade. … If you act like the only differentiator is race, you're a racist. … The biggest problem we have with our media is that it is intensely racist. … I do mean anti-white, as a general rule.” 
    • Carlson attacked the media for refusing to speculate on the role of the Rittenhouse trial in this tragedy; meanwhile, Carlson quoted someone he claimed to be a BLM activist who blamed the verdict for the tragedy. Carlson quoted the man, saying, “This has to do with the verdict” and continued, “Is it true? Again, we have not confirmed it, but we can't be absolutely certain that the national media will spend zero time trying to find out.”