In the day and a half immediately following the August 29 shooting death of a supporter of the far-right violent group Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon, major local broadcast TV news outlets serving the city largely failed to mention the group’s history of violence and ties to white nationalism.
On August 29, a caravan of vehicles full of supporters of President Donald Trump -- including members and supporters of Patriot Prayer -- moved through Portland, pepper-spraying and firing paintballs at anti-racist demonstrators. That night, a man identified as a “good friend and supporter” of Patriot Prayer by group leader Joey Gibson was shot and killed.
In the initial coverage of this story, local broadcast stations almost entirely ignored not only Patriot Prayer’s violent extremist ideology but also its history of bringing violence to Portland. Patriot Prayer has reportedly counted members of the extremist group Proud Boys, which has white nationalist ties, as “regular fixtures” at its events. These attendees are often seen beating up counterprotesters. Gibson himself was charged with rioting after attacking patrons of a bar last year. In 2018, a Patriot Prayer “flash march” ended in numerous brawls including one in which Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer members ganged up on a single counterprotester.
Of the major Portland-based broadcast outlets, only one came close to accurately labeling Patriot Prayer a violent extremist organization, a Media Matters analysis using the Kinetiq video database found. The Fox affiliate KPTV in two of its newscasts quoted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown linking the group to violence and white supremacists. But KPTV failed to include those quotes in its coverage the following morning, instead simply referring to Patriot Prayer as a “local right-wing group.”
Other major Portland TV stations failed to characterize the group accurately.
- On August 29, local NBC affiliate KGW simply identified Patriot Prayer as a “conservative organization.”
- On August 30, Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate KATU identified Patriot Prayer as “a local conservative group led by activist Joey Gibson," but did not mention Gibson's or the organization’s history of violence and bigotry. Later broadcasts on KATU about the protests and shooting did not mention Patriot Prayer’s ideology even when interviewing Gibson.
- In an evening broadcast on August 30, CBS affiliate KOIN described Patriot Prayer only as “the right-wing activist group involved with protests against antifa." Later broadcasts re-aired this description.
- In its August 30 report on the protests and shooting, KPTV described Patriot Prayer as a “local, conservative-leaning,” and “right-wing” group with no mention of its violent history.
- During its later broadcasts that night, KPTV became the only station to connect Patriot Prayer with white supremacy when it twice aired a statement from Brown reading in part, “I will not allow Patriot Prayer and armed white supremacists to bring more bloodshed to our streets.” The next day KPTV did not re-air Brown’s statement, instead referring to Patriot Prayer only as “a local right-wing group” that claimed the victim of Friday’s shooting was a member.
Methodology: Media Matters searched the Kinetiq video database for segments from Portland's major broadcast television outlets that mentioned “Patriot Prayer" between 11 p.m. August 29 and noon PDT August 31. We reviewed any mention of the organization in relation to the shooting during the night of August 29. We excluded results from nationally syndicated programs.