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  • Mark Levin boosted fake news about the Las Vegas shooting from a site made to look like CNN

    Levin has since deleted his Twitter and Facebook posts linking to the fake news story

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On October 12, right-wing radio host Mark Levin shared on Facebook and Twitter a fake news article about the Las Vegas shooting from a website designed to mimic a legitimate CNN page. The fake news article claimed the security guard at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas who was shot by the gunman had been arrested for “being an accomplice and second shooter in the Las Vegas massacre.” Levin later deleted the tweet, along with his Facebook post, which posited, “The security guard was in on it?” Levin has over 1.3 million Facebook followers and almost 1 million Twitter followers.

    The story Levin circulated was from “cnn-internationaledition.com” -- which is not affiliated with CNN -- and was headlined “Breaking News – Police Arrest Mandalay Security Guard Jesus Compos As Second Shooter In Las Vegas Massacre.” The fake news article alleged that “Compos” -- a misspelling of the security guard’s name, Jesus Campos -- was “involved in the initial shooting as a second gunman from the other broken window in [gunman Stephen] Paddock’s 32nd-floor room,” and that FBI agents “became suspicions (sic) by the extreme amount of gunpowder residue found on Campos’ hands and inconsistencies in his timeline of events.”

    There appear to be no author pages on this fake CNN site; bylines link back to the story page. The site’s contact page features no actual contact information, but rather a message submission form that collects names and email addresses. The site appears to be monetized, with ads provided by Content.ad, a serial offender in financing purveyors of fake news. 

    For his part, Levin is no stranger to fake news and misleading, unsubstantiated claims; he was likely one of President Donald Trump’s initial sources for his lie that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower to spy on him. Beyond that, Levin has diagnosed Obama with narcissistic personality disorder, denied climate change is caused by human activity, and, as recently as June, thanked Trump for “taking on the media” because “it’s a-damn-bout time somebody did.”

    The Las Vegas massacre has inspired a litany of outlandish conspiracy theories, among them allegations that the shooting was staged by “Bolshevik” revolutionaries and that the gunman was linked to antifa and/or ISIS. This fake CNN article will also fuel speculation around one of the more common conspiracy theories, that the gunman had at least one accomplice who could have been a second shooter.

  • Local Virginia TV station’s fact check misses major problems with Gillespie's anti-immigrant ads

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    WAVY News 10’s fact check of Republican Ed Gillespie’s ads in the Virginia gubernatorial race correctly identified one factual inaccuracy but failed to note the anti-immigrant falsehoods the ad pushed as well. The advertisements, which President Donald Trump parroted in his endorsement of Gillespie, have been called out as “racist” and “fear-mongering.”

    In an October 5 segment, reporter Andy Fox of Portsmouth, VA’s NBC affiliate WAVY News 10 fact-checked a series of advertisements Gillespie released attacking his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, over his support for sanctuary cities. Fox explained that while “Gillespie is correct that Northam voted for and supports sanctuary cities,” Northam’s nay vote on a bill, which was defeated, to outlaw sanctuary cities in Virginia “was not the deciding vote as stated in Gillespie’s ad.”

    The bill Gillespie referenced, House Bill 2000, initially failed in the Virginia state Senate earlier this year thanks to what The Washington Post’s editorial board called an act of “political trickery” in which Senate Leader Tommy Norment voted with Democrats against the bill, thus forcing Northam to cast a tiebreaking vote. Republicans later called for a revote, and Norment switched his vote to support the measure. The bill was defeated nevertheless when the Virginia state House failed to muster the votes to override Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto.

    While the fact check did correctly note that Northam’s vote “was not the deciding vote as stated in Gillespie’s ad,” Fox missed a few additional opportunities to fact-check Gillespie. Contrary to claims made in the ad, fewer crimes are committed in sanctuary areas compared to nonsanctuary municipalities. This is at least partly because, as NPR explained, witnesses and victims in sanctuary areas are more likely to aid police. Additionally, The Economist wrote that law enforcement found that sanctuary policies “allow [police departments] to fight MS-13,” a criminal gang that Gillespie brought up in his ad, “more effectively.”

    Those aren’t the only problems with Gillespie’s ads. As the Post reported, the men meant to portray MS-13 member in the ads “were not MS-13 members and were photographed in a prison in El Salvador.” Additionally, as Washingtonian pointed out, “there technically aren’t any” sanctuary cities in Virginia, although, as ThinkProgress noted, “some areas of the state do have sanctuary city-like policies protecting immigrants from deportation.”

    While Gillespie’s ad has been criticized for “fear-mongering” and being “super racist," it does seem to have at least one fan: President Donald Trump. Trump echoed the messages in Gillespie’s ad in an October 5 tweet announcing his support for the Republican, which was tweeted eleven minutes after the ad ran during Fox News programming:

    Even though Gillespie is trying to downplay Trump’s support, it’s difficult to ignore that both he and Trump are relying on right-wing media’s anti-immigrant playbook.

  • Fox News is unusually focused on the nationality of the officer who shot Justine Damond (he's Somali-American)

    The network’s coverage mainstreams xenophobic narratives about immigrant crime

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, developments emerged in two cases of fatal officer-involved shootings, but Fox News rushed to cover only one of them and focused disproportionately on the officer’s nationality in doing so.

    On the day Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was indicted for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black teenager, news broke of the July 15 shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer who was later identified as Mohamed Noor. Noor is Somali-American. While Fox News aired several segments about Noor, the network made not a single mention of the indictment of Oliver, who is white, continuing its disinterest in the case since Edwards was killed on April 29 in Dallas, TX.

    In the first three days of coverage following the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk (who went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond), Fox News covered the story in 11 segments, six of which mentioned that the officer was “Somali-American,” an "immigrant" from Somalia, the first Somali-American to patrol that precinct, or that Minneapolis boasts a “very significant Somali population.” A Fox News article online began both its headline and body with Noor’s Somali background. In the same period, MSNBC and CNN both dedicated seven and 14 segments, respectively, to the story. CNN reporters did mention his Somali-American identity twice when prompted by hosts for more details about his background. MSNBC did not mention that he is Somali-American.

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went so far as to claim the mainstream media is engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the officer’s nationality. On the July 18 edition of his show, Carlson said, "Mohamed Noor was an immigrant from Somalia. Is that a relevant fact? We don't know. But it's being treated as one by many news organizations. How do you know that? Because they're not reporting it."

    Carlson was wrong to claim news organizations didn’t mention that the officer is Somali-American. His rival network CNN mentioned it that same day, and while The Washington Post -- which Carlson referenced -- did publish an early article on the story that did not mention his name or nationality (officials had not yet confirmed the identity of the officer), the paper also published a piece the next morning entirely focused on Noor and reactions in the Somali community of Minneapolis, which is bracing for backlash in the wake of the shooting. Moreover, Minnesota state officials did not publicly release the identities of the two officers involved in the shooting until Tuesday night (July 18), meaning three of Fox’s reports on Noor’s Somali identity were seemingly based on early reporting by the Star Tribune that had not yet been confirmed by police.

    Carlson was also misguided in his implication that other outlets’ omission of Noor’s nationality is evidence that it’s relevant. While many questions about the incident remain, and there are legitimate grievances being voiced by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Damond’s family, and the Australian government over the police department’s lack of transparency in the case, none of them are focused on Noor’s identity. In fact, Damond’s hometown newspaper in Australia ran a front-page headline reading “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE” in reference to what Australians quoted in the piece see as a country “infested” with guns and a “very risky place in terms of gun violence.” Damond’s family, which just suffered a tragic loss at the hands of police, hasn't focused on Noor’s identity as particularly relevant in reports. Fox News is the exception, not the norm.

    In the cases of police brutality against Jordan Edwards, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, all of whom were black, Fox News assigned no particular relevance to the nationalities of the officers involved. But the network did, in various cases, invite guests to defend the officers’ actions, criticize the victims of the shooting, or use the incident to promote questionable or problematic policing tactics. The disproportionate attention Fox News paid to Noor’s immigrant background and its resistance to defend him elucidates the limits of its pro-police posture.

    And the network’s coverage, while an outlier for mainstream reporting on the story, is essentially a more sanitized version of stories with headlines like “First Somali-Muslim police officer in Minnesota KILLS blonde yoga instructor in cold blood” and “Unarmed White Woman Murdered In Minnesota, Dems SILENT After Shooter's ID Revealed…”. There are many more. Noor’s religion has not been obsessed upon outside of far-right blogs and Twitter.

    Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community has been a strangely popular target for Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. The network has previously fearmongered about Somali immigrants, called the area “ground zero” for ISIS recruitment, and attacked the Minneapolis mayor for giving her State of the City address in a mosque. Fringe media websites and fake news purveyors recently targeted Minneapolis in response to the city’s announcement that it was launching a hate crimes reporting hotline, claiming the move amounted to “fascism.”

    In its hyperfocus on Noor’s nationality, Fox News served to validate the racism, xenophobia, and debunked associations between immigration and crime espoused by pro-Trump fake news purveyors, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and notorious Islamophobes alike. Noor's background is only as relevant as it is in any officer-involved shooting, and if it's being touted as more than that, we should be asking why.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between 5 a.m. and midnight on both July 17 and 18 and between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m on July 19 for mentions of “Roy” or “Oliver,” “Edward” or “Jordan,” and “Somali,” "Noor," "Minneapolis," “Minnesota,” "Damond," "Ruszcyzk," and “Australia.” Teaser segments were excluded.

  • The role of journalism in exposing a culture of violence at Rikers Island

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NINA MAST

    After years of investigations into a culture of violence, abuse, and neglect for human life at Rikers Island prison complex, correction officials’ attempts to cover it up, and the failures of New York City’s elected officials to implement real reforms, Rikers prison is set to be closed in the next 10 years. Here, we document some of the crucial investigative journalism and storytelling by The Village Voice, The New Yorker, and The New York Times that helped expose the extent of the horrors at one of the worst prisons in America.

  • Recent Arkansas Executions Demonstrate Need For Greater Media Access To Capital Punishment

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Arkansas’ recent spate of executions of prisoners on death row, conducted with the use of nearly expired and improperly obtained drugs, was marred by reports that the drugs used were ineffective and caused the inmates to suffer. But uncertainty about what happened to inmates in the death chamber illustrates the need for greater reporter access to these events -- life and death stories for which they may be the only impartial witness.

    The Arkansas Department of Corrections executed four men in eight days, an abridged version of its initial, unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days before one of its lethal injection drugs expired. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer called using the expiration date “as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die … close to random.” Four other planned executions were blocked by court orders for multiple reasons, including possible issues with the clemency process and concerns over use of the sedative midazolam. The four executions were the first in Arkansas since 2005, and at least two of them may have been botched. But because of Arkansas’ restrictions on media access to executions, the public may never know for certain. As The Associated Press’ (AP) Kelly Kissel noted:

    About two dozen people witness each execution in Arkansas, though the term "witness" is a misnomer. No one among the media or citizen witnesses can see as the inmate is secured to a gurney, watch as medical personnel place intravenous lines or hear what's happening as the actual execution takes place. If there's a dispute over what happened, resolution is difficult.

    Sure enough, events in two of four executions in Arkansas are already in dispute. Lawyers say that during Jack Jones’ execution, “infirmary workers had tried unsuccessfully to insert a central line in Mr. Jones’s neck for 45 minutes, before placing it elsewhere on his body” and that “Mr. Jones gulped for air during the execution ... ‘evidence of continued consciousness.’” The state of Arkansas contradicted these reports, and because of the witness restrictions Kissel described, neither claim is independently verifiable. Similarly, during the execution of Kenneth Williams, as NBC News reported, “Media witnesses reported [Williams] ‘coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking’ for a 10 to 20 second period.” Kissel, who was present at the execution, “explained that Williams ‘lurched’ 15 times in quick succession, followed by five slower lurches, three minutes after the sedative midazolam was introduced.” Witnesses stated that Williams could be heard even after the mic was shut off. State Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, a citizen witness to the execution, described the movements in a federal court affidavit as "brief involuntary muscle spasms" and noted that he saw no evidence of "pain or suffering," such as a grimace. As a result of the conflicting witness accounts surrounding Williams' death, a federal judge has called for his execution to be investigated more closely.

    It is reportedly not unusual for states to record executions. Of the four states in which executions were held this year, taping was permitted at least in Texas (Media Matters was unable to ascertain whether Virginia or Missouri allow audio or video recording during executions). But the Arkansas Department of Corrections does not audio or video record its executions and, even in written next-day logs, the department does not typically document the specific times that the drugs are administered or that the inmate is deemed unconscious.

    And in the case of Ledell Lee, the first person Arkansas executed this year, the state told media witnesses that they would not be allowed to document his execution using pen and paper. Although the Department of Corrections reversed its decision just half an hour before Lee was set to be executed, it is unclear whether the reversal will remain.

    Over the last several years, a number of executions in various states have been both reported and confirmed to have been botched, as states use untested and potentially dangerous combinations of drugs, many of which were not created for the purpose of lethal injection. Drug companies are increasingly objecting to use of their drugs to kill people, making it harder for states to obtain those drugs. And the relationship between prisons and lethal injection drug manufacturers that do permit the use of their drugs in executions has become less transparent, with several states attempting to enact secrecy laws to protect their suppliers. Questionable execution practices make transparency and media access a needed check on the system, but reports suggest that some states are actually making the execution process less transparent.

    KUAR, an NPR affiliate in Little Rock, AR, reported that Texas, Missouri, and Virginia -- the only other states to have carried out executions this year -- allowed media witnesses to witness and document executions, at least once the inmate is secured to the gurney and his IV lines have been placed. Previously, for decades, the Virginia Department of Corrections allowed witnesses to observe the inmate being secured to the gurney and IV lines being inserted. But earlier this year, the department changed its policy to prevent witnesses from observing the inmate from beginning to end. And Oklahoma’s policies became so egregiously restrictive after the botched April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, despite promised reforms, that the ACLU filed a lawsuit arguing that “the press, and by extension the public, were deprived of the First Amendment right of access to observe the initiation and termination of the execution proceeding.” The Oklahoma governor also delayed executions until further notice, and in April 2017, a bipartisan commission unanimously recommended the state extend its moratorium on the death penalty “until significant reforms are accomplished,” but the attorney general just last week announced his plans to resume execution protocols planning regardless.

    During Lockett’s execution, which a prison warden described as “a bloody mess,” Lockett showed “clear signs of discomfort” after being administered the lethal injection drugs, and then officials “closed the blinds to the chamber and left witnesses unable to see his final moments.” Lockett “died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered”; there were initially concerns that he had died of a heart attack, but while the state autopsy found no evidence of that, an independent autopsy examination was also never able to confirm this because the examiner was not given access to his head and neck.

    Back in Arkansas, after the state tried to bar reporters from using pen and paper during the execution, Robert Dunham, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told KUAR reporters that he couldn’t think of another state with the same rule. He used the execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona as an example of why it was important for reporters to be able to document the event, saying, “Reporters counted that [Wood] hacked more than 640 times. That was not something they could have done if they [didn't] have paper and pencil because they were making tick marks each time that he gasped.”

    Journalism is instrumental in bringing awareness to, and holding states accountable for, executions that have potentially violated prisoners’ 8th amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment. An estimated 3 percent of executions from 1890-2010 have been botched in some way, with lethal injection yielding the highest percentage of botched executions. The stakes are high for inmates, their families, and the country. Arkansas and other states that conduct executions should at least let the media fully bear witness.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • Fox News Omits Key Facts Regarding Unprecedented Arkansas Death Penalty Cases

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    During its reporting on the state of Arkansas’ unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days, Fox News repeatedly omitted important details about the legal challenges to the plan, downplayed the extent of criticism to the plan, and misled its viewers on the reasons the executions have not yet been carried out.

    On the April 18 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, host Jon Scott opened a panel discussion by asking, “The reasoning for this holdup has nothing to do with the lethal injection drugs that are currently in question, right?” In fact, one of the orders blocking the executions was issued for that exact reason. The Arkansas circuit judge temporarily blocked the state from using one of its drugs, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used in prisons for lethal injections (and for other purposes elsewhere).This ruling came after McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, filed a complaint alleging that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) “intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson’s policies by claiming that the drug would only be used for medical reasons in a health facility.” The ADC has to date declined to answer questions about how it obtained the restricted drugs or whether it planned to return them.

    An hour before Scott’s show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox’s America’s Newsroom that “states have had a difficult time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people.” He was referring to another drug that Arkansas has in its possession but which will expire on April 30. Stegall, however, failed to mention that these “critics” include the drug makers themselves. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes midazolam, and Fresenius Kabi USA, manufacturer of potassium chloride, another drug used in executions, have also expressed opposition to the use of their drugs for lethal injection. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions “runs counter to the manufacturers’ mission to save and enhance patients’ lives.” Spokespersons for Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward told The Washington Post that they had “recently learned” that their medicines “might be used in Arkansas lethal injections.” The reporting on these drugs shows that all three drugs used in Arkansas’ lethal injection cocktail are implicated in legal battles. Thus for Fox to imply that the planned executions are opposed merely by “critics” is a gross understatement of the legal challenges ADC is facing.

    During his reporting, Stegall also failed to provide context for the shortage of the drugs in the first place. Since 2011, many European drug companies, in an alignment with the European Union’s objection to death penalty, have decided to cease shipment of their drugs to U.S. prisons that carry out executions via lethal injections. This has created a shortage that has led U.S. prisons to turn to dangerous experimentation, as was in the case in 2014, when Dennis McGuire, an Ohio inmate on death row, was injected with a never-before-used drug cocktail. McGuire’s execution lasted 25 minutes, the longest in Ohio’s history, and witnesses said he “gasped several times throughout” before dying.

    After criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde explained that “for Arkansas to try to rush executions for the sake of a drug expiring at the end of the month is disrespectful to the intent of justice in this case,” Scott ignored her point and flippantly remarked that it “seems odd” to characterize the response to a crime that happened in 1992 as a “rush to judgment.” His comment and Casey Stegall’s claim that the “expedited timeline” was initiated because “the state is up against this deadline” of expiring drugs ignores the legal implications of their expiration. Arkansas’ “rush” to use drugs before their expiration for purposes which are opposed by the companies that sell them is a potentially illegal contract violation, and given the state’s reported admission that it violated contracts with drug makers in an earlier case, this context is especially important.

    Arkansas hasn’t carried out any executions since 2005. The state’s aggressive and potentially unconstitutional plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days is unprecedented, hugely consequential, and has drawn national scrutiny at a time when Americans’ support for the death penalty is on the decline. Leaving out important details when reporting on such a high profile case is an inexcusable journalistic failure, especially given the American public’s lack of knowledge about capital punishment in the nation’s prisons.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.

  • O’Reilly Segment Erroneously Claims Bias In Police Shooting Against Whites, Not African Americans

    Their Own Data Shows Lethal Police Force Against Nonviolent Black Offenders Is More Than 3 Times Higher Than Whites

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP & NINA MAST

    Bill O'Reilly invited the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald to argue that police use force against blacks at a greater rate than whites for violent felonies. Mac Donald and O’Reilly ignored that police use lethal force against blacks at a much higher rate for nonviolent arrests.

    On the October 25 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly hosted Mac Donald who claimed that “actually, if there's a bias in police shootings it works in favor of blacks. White felons are more likely to be shot by the police following the arrest for violent felony than blacks are,” citing data from the Center for Police Equity (CPE) showing that police used lethal force more against whites in violent felonies:

    Mac Donald cherry-picked data from the CPE used in her Wall Street Journal column which actually found that lethal force was used more often on white individuals than black individuals only in the context of violent crime. But the study found that overall “the mean use of force rate for black citizens was higher than that for white citizens in all categories” and “When controlling for resident arrests for violent Part I offenses, racial disparities that disadvantaged blacks persisted in weapon use and the use of OC spray,” according to the July, 2016, report.

    The report’s analysis revealed “a robust racial disparity benchmarked to population such that blacks receive a mean use of force score—a combination of counts and severity—that is roughly 3.8 times higher than whites:

    Note: NH=Non-Hispanic

    Mac Donald has a history of citing biased data and making inflammatory remarks about black violence. Not only has she said that there is no evidence "that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison or arrest statistics is a result of criminal justice racism,” she also claimed that young black males have a "lack of self-discipline", which accounts for their higher school suspension rates.

    Bill O’Reilly, has also defended mass incarceration of African Americans, claimed black Americans are “ill-educated,” and claimed that Black Lives Matters is “killing Americans.”

    O'Reilly gave Mac Donald an open platform to criticize Black Lives Matter protests against excessive use of force by police, while ignoring the very reason why the protests have erupted in the first place -- the killing of unarmed citizens at the hands of police for seemingly low level offenses.

  • Fox's Alternate Reality On New York City's Murder Rate

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News used a misleading chart featuring incomplete data to defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim made during the first presidential debate that “murders are up” in New York City. Fox’s chart used data from 2014 to 2015 to demonstrate a rise in murder rates, but did not include complete data showing that murder rates in New York City are down in 2016 from the same point last year.

  • WATCH: Three Minutes Of Race Baiting From CNN’s Paid “Law Enforcement Analyst” Harry Houck

    "Where Is The Crime? African American Neighborhoods. Hispanic Neighborhoods."

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    On September 22, CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck attempted to defend the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, the unarmed black man who was killed in Tulsa, OK, after his car broke down on the road. Houck argued Crutcher was being uncooperative and might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon in his car. Prior to that appearance, Houck accused critics of the shooting of “playing [the] race card,” describing outrage over Crutcher’s death as part of “the war on police.”

    Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.

    One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”

    Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.

    Race Baiting And Black Criminality

    Houck has repeatedly suggested that African-American and Hispanic communities are policed more aggressively than white communities because “they’re not behaving.” He frequently echoes the racist myth that people of color are more likely to commit crimes, prompting pushback from other CNN guests who have repeatedly had to respond to his race-baiting remarks. During the July 11, 2016, edition of New Day, when asked by a fellow guest if he was suggesting that black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “They are!”

    Houck also downplays the reality of racial profiling in the criminal justice system, calling it “something that somebody made up.” He regularly dismisses evidence showing unequal treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system, mocking comprehensive studies and academic research showing that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. In Houck’s view, African-Americans are targeted by law enforcement because they’re the ones committing crime.

    On Twitter, Houck is even less subtle about his race baiting. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic), and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website. In July, Houck posted a link to a video from “men’s rights” activist Tommy Sotomayor calling on President Obama to “ban niggas.”

    Victim Blaming

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to blame high-profile African-American victims of police violence, going to absurd lengths to defend police officers while denying the existence of racial bias. Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims for their mistreatment by police -- in his view, Eric Garner was resisting arrest, Sandra Bland was being “arrogant” and “uncooperative,” and Alton Sterling wasn’t complying with officers. He defended the police killing of Tamir Rice, saying officers “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot the 12-year-old boy. He defended a police officer who grabbed a South Carolina high school student and yanked her from her classroom desk, claiming the student “probably has no respect at home or on the street.”

    Houck’s victim-blaming often leads him to make blatantly false statements about these incidents on national television, like falsely claiming Bland refused to identify herself to police, and falsely claiming an officer informed a pregnant California woman she was being arrested before attempting to arrest her.

    Criticizing Black Lives Matter

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Houck has described the movement as part of the progressive “war on police,” claiming that “the left does not give a damn about police officers’ lives.” During the August 30, 2015, edition of CNN Newsroom, Houck compared BLM to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Houck also blames the murder of police officers on protests against police brutality. After the December 2014 killing of two NYPD police officers, Houck went on CNN and declared, “Two dead police officers, and I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”

    Houck has also used Twitter to attack BLM, describing it as a “thug group” and a movement to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.” On August 15, 2016, Houck retweeted an image calling BLM “the new KKK.”

    Petition To Drop Houck

    CNN’s decision to continue employing Houck has been criticized by the group ColorOfChange, which launched a petition in October 2015 asking CNN to stop hosting him. ColorOfChange criticized Houck’s “character assassination” of the black 16-year-old South Carolina student who was thrown from her desk by a police officer, also noting Houck’s “blind hero worshiping of the officer.”

    In July 2016, following Houck’s comments about black criminality, ColorOfChange again asked the network to stop inviting him to discuss racial bias in law enforcement, writing:

    Racist statements like this drive the attitudes and stereotypes that lead police officers to regularly commit brutal acts of violence that result in Black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling being killed.

    We are sick of CNN contributor and ex-NYPD detective Harry Houck’s one-man crusade against Black victims of law enforcement violence. Houck’s blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous.

    The group’s petition has garnered over 70,000 signatures, but that hasn’t stopped CNN from continuing to employ Houck as the network’s “law enforcement analyst.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ media and Nexis to search CNN transcripts for the name “Houck” between May 18, 2015 -- Houck’s first appearance as a network “law enforcement analyst” -- and August 1, 2016. Reruns and snippets from pre-recorded interviews were excluded. For blocks of ongoing coverage of active shooter situations, segments were counted only when the host would begin by introducing and identifying Houck for the audience.

    Top image created by Sarah Wasko.

  • Fox Lines Up Behind Trump's Stop-And-Frisk Proposal, Despite Overwhelming Evidence That It Doesn't Work

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Fox News praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for police departments across the country to engage in a stop-and-frisk policing policy based off of the unconstitutional New York City program. However, the policy is ineffective, unconstitutional and has increased “animosity between minority communities and law enforcement.”