Right-wing media use shooting in Brooklyn to attack unhoused New Yorkers

Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino interview Mayor Eric Adams

Following this week's mass shooting in New York City, right-wing media figures and guests have been baselessly blaming New York’s vulnerable unhoused population for creating an unsafe environment in the subway system. 

On Tuesday morning, a shooter released a “canister of smoke” into a subway car and then fired on commuters at Brooklyn’s 36th Street station, injuring at least 23 people. This act of violence was not perpetrated by a homeless person. In fact, the alleged shooter actively criticized homeless people on subways, addressing New York City Mayor Eric Adams in one video and complaining, “I got on the E train, every f---ing car, … every car I went to was loaded with homeless people.” He also criticized the city’s outreach programs to help people experiencing homelessness. 

In the last year, violence against people experiencing homelessness has been on the rise, with advocates pointing to a string of violent crimes across the country. Donald Whitehead of the National Coalition for the Homeless recently argued that the “criminalization of homelessness” has led to more crime against unhoused people. However, the Adams administration has not heeded this counsel, instead aggressively clearing the living spaces of unhoused people in the city. 

After Tuesday’s tragedy, right-wing media personalities and guests ignored the increasingly dangerous atmosphere for unhoused people and were quick to repeatedly scapegoat them, with some suggesting homeless people are part of the atmosphere that made this tragedy possible. This critique ignores the reality that unhoused people are more at risk than others of being the victims of crime.

  • In an interview, Fox News anchors Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer pressed Adams to get homeless people off the streets, with Perino offering personal anecdotes about troubling encounters in New York City. An on-screen chyron suggested the issue is part of an ongoing “crime wave.”
  • The Fox & Friends hosts lent credibility to the alleged subway shooter’s hateful comments against homeless people in a segment which demonized homeless people. Co-host Steve Doocy said, “The shooter was talking about the homeless problem on the subway. He said, ‘You know, there was no place to sit because the cars were full of homeless people.’” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt replied, “That's true, actually.” 
  • Fox contributor Lawrence Jones spoke about crime on Outnumbered and blamed, in part, homeless people for creating an unsafe environment, saying, “The subway attacks have been happening for a while in New York City. It’s part of the reason why I moved back to my home state of Texas. It's been a mess here. You got homeless folks that are inside, they’re naked in the middle of the streets, kids are seeing this every time. You've got people stabbing people. You got shootings happening every single day.” 
  • Newsmax guest and former police officer Brandon Tatum claimed that he was surprised that with more officers in the subway to deal with homeless people, this incident still happened: “I look at Eric Adams and I know for a fact that he deployed a lot more officers in the transit system there to deal with the homeless and still it's not effective in stopping a situation like this.” 
  • Newsmax guest and former New York Police Department Transit Chief Joe Fox cited the primary suspect’s rant about homelessness as evidence that homeless people are making the city less safe: “You know, even this perpetrator mentioned how disgusted he was with the homeless. So the policies that we've seen in the last couple of years … have turned our city, the streets, the subways, into a place where homeless people feel safe to just just hang out.” 
  • On The Story with Martha MacCallum, former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton connected the alleged shooter’s mental health to New York’s homeless population, saying, “All of those are linked together.” He added later that walking into the subway system is like “walking into an insane asylum.”
  • A Breitbart article, titled “Anxieties resurface as gunfire erupts on NYC subway,” again connected this act of violence to the unhoused population, saying, “Even before the attack, the mayor had vowed to increase subway patrols and launch sweeps of subway stations and trains to remove homeless people using them as shelters.”