KMGH aired Tancredo falsehood that Miami is the "murder capital of the world"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

During a November 28 broadcast, KMGH 7News aired Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's false assertion that Miami is the "murder capital of the world." In fact, several cities with comparable populations have higher murder rates, according to FBI statistics.

During an interview with U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) about his controversial comments equating Miami to a "Third World country," the November 28 broadcast of KMGH's 7News Now at 4 p.m. aired Tancredo's false claim that Miami is the "murder capital of the world." In fact, according to the most recent figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a number of U.S. cities with populations of at least 250,000 have significantly higher murder rates than Miami. Tancredo also claimed during the broadcast that his comments "ha[ve] nothing to do with race." However, Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa told The Denver Post that the congressman's statements about Miami being a "Third World country" were in reference to Miami's Haitian-American population, which is predominantly black.

Tancredo made his initial comments about Miami during "Restoration Weekend," a four-day event hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center featuring, among others, conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. According to a November 19 article, "Tancredo pointed to Florida's largest city as an example of how the nature of America can be changed by uncontrolled immigration." Tancredo stated:

Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country ... You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.

Tancredo's remarks, which were reported by media outlets such as The Miami Herald, generated controversy and swift responses from politicians, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). 7News interviewed Tancredo about the controversy during its 4 p.m. broadcast on November 28. Co-anchor Anne Trujillo began the interview by noting, "Some people in Miami are upset about comments [Tancredo] made about their city." Trujillo then asked Tancredo to "[t]ell us in your own words what you said about Miami." Tancredo replied:

Well, I just called it a Third World country. We were talking about it in the context -- I was in, in Florida at the time, just a few miles north of Miami. I was at a conference. I was grabbed by someone and they were doing a radio interview and during the course of the conversation, which we were talking about, among other things, the fact that massive immigration into the country is changing the culture. And, I said look at Miami, which is just south of us here, and you'll see a Third World country. I believe that my statement is, is accurate in the context I was making it.

Tancredo then falsely claimed that Miami is the "murder capital of the world" -- a statement 7News failed to challenge:

TANCREDO: Miami is a good example of a situation where massive immigration, both legal and illegal, of people who don't necessarily want to be Americans and then they culture -- then they come into a city that tells them they don't have to be, that creates an interesting and, I think, sometimes unpleasant situation. It's also the truth that you've got incredible amount of violence. It is the murder capital of the world.

Contrary to Tancredo's assertion, FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data show there are a number of U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more with murder rates higher than Miami's, according to FBI data Table 8, titled "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City, 2005." For example, the FBI reported that in 2005 Miami experienced 54 murders out of a total city population of 388,295; that equated to a murder rate of 0.014 percent. By contrast, St. Louis' murder rate was 0.038 percent, Detroit's murder rate was 0.039 percent, and Baltimore's murder rate was 0.042 percent -- triple that of Miami.*

Additionally, in response to 7News co-anchor Mike Landess' observation that some viewers consider him racist, Tancredo claimed: "This issue has got nothing to do with race."

LANDESS: Now, some of the viewers have emailed us to say they agree with you, others call you a racist, and of course that's not the first time you've heard that because of your stance on all of this. What do you have to say to them when they say that?

TANCREDO: Well, I keep saying, you know, when people run out of any sort of intellectual argument on the issue, then they revert back to name calling and epithets, and one of those epithets that I hear often is "racist." This issue's got nothing to do with race. You know, do we have a culture here? Did we, you know, is there something to identify as the American culture? It's not got, it's not based on race, as far as I can tell, certainly. And there have been plenty of people that have come into this country over the years from a wide variety of countries and a wide variety of races. They have come here. They have become Americans, they have assimilated. That's all I am asking for; that's all I want to see happen. It's got nothing to do with what they are in terms of ethnic, or even country of origin. It's not that at all. What I am talking about is a willingness to assimilate into an American culture. What is so ugly about that? What's so racist about that? Millions upon millions of people have done it -- what, being black, brown, or any hue in between. They've been able to do it. Why is it now that we're finding it so difficult, where we don't ask them to? We don't want them to learn English, we teach them in a language other than English in our schools. We actually try to put up barriers to assimilation. It's, it's a very difficult thing. But, really, it's got nothing to do with race.

However, according to an online Post article (posted November 28, but no longer available), Tancredo's spokesman, Carlos Espinosa, said Tancredo "was referring to Miami's predominately Haitian-American areas, where Espinosa said crime rates are at 'a ridiculous high.' Additionally, he said, 'nothing is in English'."

During the broadcast, Tancredo also referred to a recent "documentary done by a Miamian" in which the producer claimed "he had just gotten back from Baghdad and he said he felt safer in Baghdad [than Miami]." Presumably, Tancredo was referring to Rampage, a documentary by George Gittoes. As Trevor Butterworth of STATS.org -- an affiliate of George Mason University -- pointed out in a November 7 online posting, "the simile ... doesn't fit the statistics." STATS.org reported:

Looking at the most conservative estimate of deaths, according to the Iraq Body Count, which is based on media reports, 810 people were killed in Baghdad in September 2006 alone, as a result of roadside bombings, mortar attacks, executions, and drive-by-shootings. Even allowing for Baghdad's significantly greater population than Miami Dade (5.7 million based on a 2003 estimate versus 2.4 million), the violent death rates are nowhere near each other.

Look at it this way: say Miami Dade's total homicide count for 2006 turns out to be 215 deaths, which is significantly worse than last year. Baghdad's total number of violent deaths would need be 516 for the violent death rates to be equal (using the census count for Miami Dade's population and the 2003 estimate for Baghdad).

There is no acceptable level of violent death, but when it comes to describing Miami Dade as being worse than Baghdad, the simile of a "war zone" doesn't fit the statistics.

STATS.org is a "non-profit, non-partisan Statistical Assessment Service" whose "goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies."

As the Miami Herald reported on November 28, Tancredo's remarks "drew an instant rebuke from Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called Tancredo 'flat out wrong' and extended an invitation for him to come and judge the city for himself." The Herald further reported a comment by Tancredo's spokesman that "if Ros-Lehtinen's invitation includes 'a stay at a five-star beachfront resort, [Tancredo] may be willing to look beyond the inherent dangers that he had cited and visit Miami again.' "

From the November 28 broadcast of KMGH's 7News Now at 4 p.m.:

ANNE TRUJILLO: Outspoken Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo is once again in the headlines. Some people in Miami are upset about comments he made about their city, and the congressman joins us now. Thanks for being here, Mr. Tancredo.

TANCREDO: Sure, it's a pleasure.

TRUJILLO: Tell us in your own words what you said about Miami.

TANCREDO: Well, I just called it a Third World country. We were talking about it in the context -- I was in, in Florida at the time, just a few miles north of Miami. I was at a conference. I was grabbed by someone and they were doing a radio interview and during the course of the conversation, which we were talking about, among other things, the fact that massive immigration into the country is changing the culture. And, I said look at Miami, which is just south of us here, and you'll see a Third World country. I believe that my statement is, is accurate in the context I was making it.

I'm telling you that what we see in Miami today -- it's not, by the way, totally unique to Miami, but it's -- Miami is a good example of a situation where massive immigration, both legal and illegal, of people who don't necessarily want to be Americans and then they culture -- then they come into a city that tells them they don't have to be, that creates an interesting and, I think, sometimes unpleasant situation. It's also the truth that you've got incredible amount of violence. It is the murder capital of the world. There was just a, recently, a documentary done by a Miamian saying that he had just gotten back from Baghdad and he said he felt safer in Baghdad.

TRUJILLO: Well let me interrupt you there because, and let's bring Mike Landess, who's joining us from the newsroom because we've got some questions from viewers today about this very issue. Mike.

LANDESS: Congressman, good to see you today.

TANCREDO: Hi, Mike.

LANDESS: Now, some of the viewers have emailed us to say they agree with you, others call you a racist, and of course that's not the first time you've heard that because of your stance on all of this. What do you have to say to them when they say that?

TANCREDO: Well, I keep saying, you know, when people run out of any sort of intellectual argument on the issue, then they revert back to name calling and epithets, and one of those epithets that I hear often is "racist." This issue's got nothing to do with race. You know, do we have a culture here? Did we, you know, is there something to identify as the American culture? It's not got, it's not based on race, as far as I can tell, certainly. And there have been plenty of people that have come into this country over the years from a wide variety of countries and a wide variety of races. They have come here. They have become Americans, they have assimilated. That's all I am asking for; that's all I want to see happen. It's got nothing to do with what they are in terms of ethnic, or even country of origin. It's not that at all. What I am talking about is a willingness to assimilate into an American culture. What is so ugly about that? What's so racist about that? Millions upon millions of people have done it -- what, being black, brown, or any hue in between. They've been able to do it. Why is it now that we're finding it so difficult, where we don't ask them to? We don't want them to learn English, we teach them in a language other than English in our schools. We actually try to put up barriers to assimilation. It's, it's a very difficult thing. But, really, it's got nothing to do with race.

Correction: 

Colorado Media Matters originally incorrectly reported figures from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data, indicating that based on the number of murders in 2005, the murder rate for Miami equated to a rate of 0.00014 percent; for St. Louis, 0.00038 percent; for Detroit, 0.00039 percent; and for Baltimore, 0.00042 percent. Those figures each included two extraneous zeros that rendered them incorrect, although the relative differences among the figures were accurate. The actual figures expressed as a percentage are: 0.014 percent for Miami, 0.038 percent for St. Louis, 0.039 percent for Detroit, and 0.042 percent for Baltimore. Colorado Media Matters regrets the error.

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