In the aftermath of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, Spanish-speaking conservatives and misinformers have provided distorted coverage of the shooting to deflect attention away from gun violence prevention measures and peddle conservative talking points about left-inspired violence.
On Monday, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of spectators at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Reports indicate the shooter fired over 70 rounds using a legally purchased high-powered semiautomatic rifle, killing seven people and injuring more than 30 adults and children. Authorities have yet to ascertain a clear motive, although records from his social media accounts suggest an obsession with violence and, at the very least, an interest in former President Donald Trump.
Right-wing narratives around gun safety targeted at Spanish-speaking communities have emerged even as 86% of Latinos in the US think mass shootings are “a crisis,” and 69% expressed concern for their personal safety, according to new polling by Voto Latino.
Spanish-language right-wing media claim that gun violence prevention measures will not work to stop mass shootings
Spanish-speaking conservative commentators presented the Highland Park shooting as evidence of failed gun-violence prevention programs in Illinois — an oversimplified view of gun reform that fails to account for other factors, such as gun imports from neighboring states and legal loopholes. While gun safety measures such as extreme risk laws, also known as red-flag laws, may not have successfully stopped this shooter, they do effectively reduce gun violence: “On average, states with red flag laws in 2019 and 2020 had significantly lower firearm death rates than states without them.”
- Emmanuel Rincon, the editor-at-large for growing bilingual conservative outlet El American with over 86,000 followers on Twitter, claimed “gun control failed” to prevent another mass shooting: “The new massacre in Chicago is a tragedy. It looks like gun control didn't work yet again. As long as the government continues trying to blame weapons and not criminals (mentally ill), this will continue to happen.” [Translated from Spanish] [Twitter, 07/04/22]
- Original Spanish: Una tragedia la nueva matanza en Chicago. Parece que los controles de armas no funcionaron una vez más. Mientras el Gobierno siga tratando de dirigir la culpa a las armas y no a los delincuentes (enfermos mentales), esto va a seguir ocurriendo.
- Later in the same thread, Rincon also said guns can’t be “reformed or taken away”: “Guns can’t be reformed or gotten rid of, they will always exist. What must be dealt with are the criminals. We need stricter laws, zero compassion for criminals, mental health treatments, to allow civilian self-defense, and to reinforce security systems.” [Translated from Spanish] [ Twitter, 07/04/22]
- Original Spanish: Las armas no se pueden reformar ni desaparecer, siempre van a existir, lo que se debe tratar es a los criminales. Necesitamos leyes más duras, cero compasión con criminales, tratamiento mental, permitir la defensa personal de civiles y reforzar los aparatos de seguridad.
- The right-wing blog México Libertario, which is run by commentator Victor Becerra, argued that gun safety initiatives are a “dead end”: “Yesterday's tragedy in Chicago is very unfortunate. But gun control doesn’t work: Illinois is a gun-control state. As long as the government and the media blame guns, not the criminals and their pathologies, this will continue to repeat itself and lead to a dead end.” [Translated from Spanish] [Twitter, 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Muy lamentable la tragedia de ayer en Chicago. Pero los controles de armas no funcionan: Illinois es un estado de desarme. Mientras gobierno y medios culpabilicen a las armas y no a los delincuentes y sus patologías, esto seguirá repitiéndose y siendo un callejón sin salida.
- Right-wing Accion 97.9 host Dania Alexandrino said, “Red flag laws did absolutely nothing to stop this psychopath.”: “Chicago, one of the cities with the most gun control, has Red Flag laws. And these Red Flag laws did absolutely nothing to stop this psychopath.” [En Perspectiva, 7/05/22].
- Original Spanish: … La ciudad de Chicago, una de las ciudades con el mayor control de armas de fuego, tienen Red Flag laws. Y ni esas Red Flag Laws hicieron absolutamente nada para detener a este psicópata.
Spanish-speaking right-wing media figures and conspiracy theorists are falsely linking the alleged gunman to Antifa
Spanish-speaking media misinformers falsely linked the alleged gunman to Antifa, repeatedly calling him an “Antifa militant.”
- Spanish QAnon Telegram feed Noticias Patriotas, which has 13,000 subscribers, claimed that the shooter was either not a real person or belonged to Antifa: “Pictures of Robert Crimo Antifa!? Robert Crimo is not real; Twitter account 05/17/22.” [Translated from Spanish] [Telegram 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Fotos de Robert Crimo Antifa!? !! Robert Crimo no existe, cuenta de Twitter 17/5/2022
- Popular Spanish-language right-wing publication La Derecha Diario, which has over 161,000 followers on Twitter, also spread false claims about the shooter's militant affiliation: “Massacre in Highland Park: An Antifa militant killed 6 people at the 4 of July celebrations in Illinois.” [Translated from Spanish] [Twitter, 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Masacre en Highland Park: Un militante de Antifa mató a 6 personas en los festejos del 4 de Julio en Illinois.
- Right-wing Spanish-language radio host Peter Vivaldi falsely claimed the shooter belonged to Antifa: “Mass shooting during a parade in Illinois was allegedly carried out by this young Antifa member.” [Translated from Spanish] [Facebook, 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Tiroteo masivo durante parada en Illinois alegadamente fue por este joven miembro de Antifa.
- Prolific far-right Spanish-language misinformation purveyor Tierra Pura also amplified claims linking the shooter to Antifa: “Massacre in Highland Park: An Antifa militant killed 6 people at the Fourth of July celebrations in Illinois. [Translated from Spanish] [Telegram, 07/06/22]
- Original Spanish: Masacre en Highland Park: Un militante de Antifa mató a 6 personas en los festejos del 4 de Julio en Illinois
- Americano Media, a conservative Spanish-language SiriusXM channel, claimed the shooter posted Antifa symbolism on social media: “The 22-year-old was arrested and is in police custody. His social media profile shows he used symbolism related to ANTIFA.” [Translated from Spanish] [Facebook, 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: El joven de 22 años fue arrestado y se encuentra en custodia de la policía. En su perfil de redes sociales usaba simbolismo relacionado con ANTIFA.
Spanish-language media figures on the right are blaming the shooting on a failure to report and address mental health issues
Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are nonviolent, conservatives continue to weaponize mental illness as a scapegoat for mass shootings, including in Spanish-language media.
- On her show Perspectiva USA, Alexandrino blamed the “mental health professionals who did not notify the police,” rendering gun safety laws in Illinois “useless.” Guest Robert Acre agreed, saying that “in all these [mass shooting] incidents, it’s someone with many problems… if you report [mental health issues,] they can't buy these firearms.” Alexandrino responded that this was also “a failing from the family to supervise” the shooter, and eventually concluded that “there were faults in the system, in the system in the context of the mental health of this guy, … The parents that did not notify the authorities that they knew he had two previous incidents — there were faults in various places.” [Americano Media, 7/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Lo en casi todos los instantes de esto lo. Hay alguien con mucho problema… si lo reportan, entonces no puede comprar esas armas después… Ejemplo donde la familia falla en supervisar porque el papá… Hubo fallos en el sistema, el sistema en el marco del incidente de salud mental de este muchacho. … Los padres de no notificar a las autoridades, a pesar de que ellos sabían que había tenido dos incidentes previos. Hubo fallos por distintos lados.
- On her Accion 97.9 show, Alexandrino blamed anyone who saw the alleged shooter's content and messages signaling his violent intentions: “Am I saying that guns are the problem? No, the problem is the insane psychopath who even had music videos, had posts on social media, had text messages, and several people already knew that the guy had plans to do something and nobody did anything” [En Perspectiva, 7/05/22].
- Original Spanish: las armas el problema? No, el problema es el psicópata demente que incluso tenía videos musicales, tenía post en social media, tenía mensajes de texto y ya varias personas sabían de que el tipo tenía planes de hacer algo y nadie hizo nada.
- In an op-ed for El American, Rincon claimed, “The problem is the violent mentally deranged, not the instrument they use for their misdeeds.” He wrote this in a piece titled, “No more Thoughts and Prayers - Let's Address the Violence and Mental Health Crises.” [El American, 07/05/22]
- Spanish: El problema son los violentos enajenados mentales, no el instrumento que usan para sus fechorías! Mientras más pronto lo asumamos, más cerca estaremos de hallar soluciones.
- El American field correspondent Anthony Cabassa claimed, “The shooter attempted suicide but was handled by mental health providers.”: “JUST IN: The Highland Park Shooter had been reported to authorities in the past and was known to local law enforcement. In April 2019, an individual called authorities that the shooter attempted suicide but was handled by mental health providers.” [Twitter, 07/06/22]
Right-wing media are focusing on allegations that the shooter dressed as a woman
English and Spanish-speaking right-wingers are attempting to draw attention to the alleged gunman’s disguise as he fled the scene in order to draw assumptions about his political affiliation and mental health. This comes after baseless claims about the Uvalde shooter’s gender identity flooded the internet, amplifying false and transphobic claims linking being transgender to violence.
- Alexandrino highlighted that “the Chicago gunman committed the act dressed as a woman.” [En Perspectiva, 07/05/22].
- Original Spanish: Pues resulta que aparente y alegadamente el pistolero de Chicago cometió el acto vestido de mujer.
- Popular Spanish-language right-wing Facebook account Estamos Unidos, which has over 18,000 followers, also highlighted the women's clothing in a post: “Highland Park gunman Robert Crimo photographed disguised as a woman… WE STAND TOGETHER… It's time to act!!!” [Translated from Spanish] [Facebook, 07/06/22]
- Original Spanish: El pistolero de Highland Park, Robert Crimo, fotografiado disfrazado de mujer… ESTAMOS UNIDOS… Es tiempo de actuar!!!
Spanish-language media have also spread other types of right-wing narratives
Spanish-language media figures also spread other narratives, including claiming that the alleged shooter was able to buy firearms because he was a rapper and focusing on his tattoos.
- Estamos Unidos attempted to link the shooting to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and questioned whether “leftists are still planning to defund the police”: “Illinois, where Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQ protests to insult Justice Clarance Thomas, has become a bloody crime scene, despite on several occasions her denial that violence and crime are out of control. A gunman killed six people and injured 16 during an Independence Day parade. Are leftists still planning to defund the police?” [Translated from Spanish] [Facebook, 07/05/22]
- Original Spanish: Nuevamente Illinois, donde la alcaldesa demócrata Lori Lightfoot, se dedica a realizar manifestaciones a favor del Aborto y de los lgtb para insultar al Juez Clarence Thomas, se convierte en un sangriento escenario, a pesar que en repetidas ocasiones ella ha negado que la violencia y la delincuencia están fuera de control. Un pistolero mató a 6 personas e hirió a 16 durante un desfile por la celebración del Día de la Independencia de los Estados Unidos en la ciudad de Highland Park. Aún estará en los planes de los izquierdistas desfinanciar a la policía?
- Alexandrino claimed the shooter “managed to buy firearms legally because he was a rapper, or a rapper on the rise.” She continued, saying, “Perhaps he used his privilege to acquire these weapons.” [En Perspectiva, 07/05/22].
- Original Spanish: Lo que significa que este individuo que logró comprar armas de fuego de forma legal porque disquera, rapero o un rapero en ascenso. Quizás utilizó su privilegio para poder adquirir estas armas.
- On his conservative radio show Al Momento, Ray Cruz focused on the shooter's tattoos. Cruz said, “He looks like someone … who has a problem with video games” and says that video games can give people with pre-existing mental health problems “bad ideas.” [Generacion News. 07/05/22, 27:50-28:40]
- Original Spanish: Esto parecía un, y vuelvo y digo a la gente, que hay un problema con los videojuegos… tras que hay un problema de salud mental, los videojuegos están dando malas ideas.