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Following reports of a knife and vehicle attack in London, the National Rifle Association’s news show used the incident to promote “how important our gun rights are here in America," suggesting guns could help Americans combat such an attack. But the show's commentary ignored the reality that the United States, which has more permissive gun laws than the United Kingdom, also has a much higher homicide rate, and it is largely driven by gun violence.
After at least four people were killed and 20 injured in the London knife and car attack, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield claimed Europeans are “unprepared for an attack” because “the government has all but disarmed” citizens and claimed that “this attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.”
From the March 22 edition of NRATV’s Live Updates with Grant Stinchfield:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It has happened once again, details are still being revealed but it appears terror has struck in the U.K. An attack on Parliament by a possible terrorist, he apparently used a car to run over as many as 12 people. The suspect then used a knife to stab a police officer. It is still unclear if the suspect who used the vehicle and the suspect who stabbed the cop are the same person. Parliament is in lockdown after law enforcement shot the knife wielding terrorist. This is a stark reminder that our enemies are real. They will do anything they can to destroy us and our allies, using a vehicle now seems to be the new method of choice for these evil holy warriors who kill in the name of Islam. Most citizens in Europe are unprepared for an attack like this as the government has all but disarmed law-abiding citizens. This attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.
After a mass school shooting in 1996, the U.K. enacted highly restrictive measures on gun ownership that banned most military-style firearms and handguns. But while British gun laws are much stricter compared to those in the U.S., the European nation also has drastically lower rates of gun deaths, gun homicides, and homicides by all methods.
Firearms are used in more than two-thirds of homicides in the United States. High gun availability has been linked to increased gun homicide rates, with one review of academic research finding that “case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S., where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” (The same trend is seen in comparisons between high-income countries.)
Academic research has also found that guns are used in the U.S. far more often to commit crimes than to stop crimes.
A 2000 Harvard Injury Research Control Center found that as a ratio, "guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense. Most self reported self defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society."
In fact, the odds of needing a gun to protect yourself are so low that it’s difficult to accurately measure the number of defensive gun uses each year. Meanwhile, gun violence is so frequent in the United States that more than 100,000 gunshot injuries are recorded every year (a figure that does not include crimes committed with guns where no one is shot).
In contrast to the lack of evidence that civilians effectively use guns to stop mass shootings, terror attacks involving firearms in the United States, often involving AR-15-style assault weapons, have proven incredibly deadly over the years. A December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, CA, involved a gunman shooting and killing 14 and wounding 22 at an office holiday party, and the perpetrator of a June 2016 terror attack in a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, shot and killed 49 and wounded at least 53.
Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry announced that he will discontinue his weekly segment mocking victims of Chicago gun violence, and he apologized for the feature, saying he has “to make better decisions” about the words he uses.
Until now, The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated by iHeartRadio, has featured a “racially charged” “Butcher Bill” weekly segment that ridiculed the city’s gun violence victims and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry repeatedly claimed that “black people don’t believe black lives matter.”
Berry’s decision to discontinue the segment follows controversy over iHeartRadio’s recent announcement that it would give Berry a “talk personality of the year” award. After the announcement of the award, Media Matters published a piece on March 1 highlighting some of the worst examples from Berry’s “Butcher Bill.”
Amid the ensuing controversy, iHeartRadio refused to comment to Media Matters and news outlets covering the story to explain why he was being honored. The award was to be given during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music awards, but no indication has been made that Berry was actually honored at the ceremony, and iHeartRadio did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether Berry received the award. iHeartRadio has also not responded to requests for comment on Berry’s apology and discontinuation of the segment.
During the March 10 evening edition of his show, Berry announced he would “discontinue” the segment. He initially defended the segment, with a self-serving explanation that claimed the purpose was to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” Calling himself a “comedian wanna-be,” Berry said that “comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think.”
While this explanation purported to show sympathy for victims of gun violence in Chicago, the actual segments he ran were full of heartless mockery. For example, in September 2015, Berry ridiculed 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter just days after he was murdered as the innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting. Mocking the youth’s name, Berry said, “Tyjuan Poindexter. Ha ha. Tyjuan Poindexter was standing outside with some friends when some people drove by and opened fire. Young Mister Poindexter was shot in the head and died at the scene. He won't have to live with that name anymore.”
In 2017, Berry often played “bingo” with Chicago residents’ gun violence injuries and encouraged listeners to play along by guessing where victims were shot on their bodies. He also sarcastically suggested that the way to avoid “hear[ing] shots and fe[eling] pain” in Chicago is to wear “earmuffs.”
Despite attempting to sanitize the content of his segment, Berry conceded on March 10 that he had received “valid criticism” and that those who had complained about the segment “deserve an apology”:
MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): Well, it came to our attention, most of you listening right now would never know what I’m talking about. We do a -- on our morning show, on Monday mornings, we do a segment called the Chicago Weekend Crime Update. And the genesis of that, several years ago, was to say, “Every week there are people, a dozen or more people being murdered and usually multiple dozens being wounded on the streets of Chicago and we’re arguing over guns when precious lives are being lost. Children, walking to school, being gunned down or in their own home. A mom walking her baby in a pram, and gets shot and killed in front of their own home.” So, in an effort to highlight that, we started a segment that was tinged in humor -- and that might seem weird. But comedians, and I’m a comedian wannabe, comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think. It’s why they’re very effective at stoking discussions. And through the course of that, some people said to me, and I read some comments that people had posted, that I was mocking crime victims. And my immediate reaction is, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to listen to you. But I sat down with my wife, and we read through them, and I realized I could see where somebody would say that. I would come off -- you’re right. That is a valid criticism, and I have thought over that a lot in the last week. And that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. And we decided that we would discontinue that segment, as much as we think it's important to highlight the problems of crime. And I also wanted to apologize, because some people took the time to post to me that that bothered them and why. In very thoughtful comments, and they deserve an apology. And I have to make better decisions with the words I use.
Berry has previously apologized for making disparaging comments about American Indians and for his suggestion that someone blow up a mosque, but these apologies did not temper his proclivity for using dehumanizing rhetoric.
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iHeartRadio is refusing to say whether it honored conservative radio host Michael Berry -- who routinely mocks Chicago victims of gun violence -- at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards. The online radio broadcasting company previously announced that Berry would be named “talk personality of the year” at the March 5 award ceremony.
Talkers, the radio industry’s trade publication, reported on February 27 that iHeartRadio was giving a “news/talk personality of the year” award to Berry, writing that the award “is a first” and that the “competition was open only to talk hosts who work for iHeartMedia stations.” The report quoted Berry claiming that he hosts “a show that dares to be funny.”
The Talkers article originally included the line “The award will be given in Los Angeles on March 5 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,” but that language was subsequently removed without explanation. During the February 23 broadcast of The Michael Berry Show, Berry talked about being chosen for the award, saying, “It’s the first time our company has done this -- they have a big awards ceremony next month.”
On March 1, Media Matters published a piece documenting Berry’s regular ridicule of Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, which often includes playing “bingo” and other games with victims’ gunshot injuries. For example, during a February 20 broadcast, Berry said of a slain gun violence victim: “Saturday, 4:25 a.m., po-po responding to a call of shots fired, found 36-year-old John Gonzalez with a gunshot wound to -- to his head. To his head, everybody. B4, his head.”
The piece also mentioned that Berry frequently picks on teenage victims of gun violence in Chicago. After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Berry joked that the teenager, who was an innocent bystander, “won't have to live with that name anymore.”
Following the piece’s publication, Media Matters sent multiple requests for comment to iHeartRadio asking them to explain the rationale behind honoring Berry, but received no response. A March 2 Chicago Tribune article on Berry’s propensity to mock gun violence victims noted that “Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from the Chicago Tribune this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia.” (The Tribune article references the deleted line from the Talkers report -- “Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles” -- indicating the line was removed after Media Matters’ piece was published.)
Similarly, a March 2 WGN News broadcast reporting that Berry “makes fun of shooting victims with racially charged commentary” noted that iHeartRadio had not responded to a request for comment.
On March 5, the iHeartRadio Music awards show was held in Los Angeles. The event was broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv. With the event now concluded, it is unclear whether Berry was honored during the ceremony. A search of iQ media turned up no evidence that Berry was honored during the televised portions of the event, and on March 6, iHeartRadio published a “complete” list of winners from the event, which does not include Berry, instead listing the musicians who won awards, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Justin Bieber.
Media Matters has again sent iHeartRadio multiple requests for comment, asking the company to confirm whether Berry received the award at the event as previously planned. iHeartRadio has not responded.
It is important that leadership at iHeartRadio clarify whether they stand with the values represented by Berry’s show and believe that a host like him should be elevated by receiving an award alongside high-profile performers.
If iHeartRadio decided to honor Berry in secret, that suggests the company is comfortable giving an award to someone who ridicules gun violence victims, but also doesn’t want to face any public backlash over the situation. If the award was rescinded, that is an important point too, and iHeartRadio should explain its rationale for not going forward with the honor.
Additional reporting by Media Matters' Joe Strupp.
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The Chicago Tribune reported that conservative radio host Michael Berry, who is set to receive iHeartRadio’s “Talk Personality of the Year” award on Sunday, “mocks Chicago homicide victims in his regular feature, ‘Chicago Weekend Crime Report,’ which includes a shooting victim bingo game in which listeners are supposed to guess where in the body victims were shot.”
Berry will receive his award during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards, which will be broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv.
A March 2 Tribune article chronicled the various ways Berry mocks gun violence victims on his show, including by saying, “‘He won't have to live with that name anymore,'” days “after 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was the unintended and blameless victim of a September 2015 drive-by shooting.” It also notes that “Berry joked that a bullet wound to a 30-year-old Chicago man's right leg would ensure ‘he will never be a professional field goal kicker’”:
A rising nationally syndicated conservative talk-radio star who makes fun of Chicago homicide victims on his show says he is being honored by his bosses at radio giant iHeartRadio as the "Talk Personality of the Year."
Texan Michael Berry mocks Chicago homicide victims in his regular feature, "Chicago Weekend Crime Report," which includes a shooting victim bingo game in which listeners are supposed to guess where in the body victims were shot.
"He won't have to live with that name anymore," Berry chortled not long after 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was the unintended and blameless victim of a September 2015 drive-by shooting.
Media Matters, a liberal media-monitoring organization that tracks conservative media, wrote about Berry online this week, and provided the Tribune with 10 clips from his shows. Those clips and others found online suggest that riffing on the fatal shootings of Chicagoans, particular African-Americans, is a routine part of the white 46-year-old former Houston council member's shtick. He refers to the segment as his "Butcher's Bill" and has been successful enough to have scored a 2015 interview with President Donald Trump, and to have become the nation's 16th highest-rated radio talker by the trade magazine, Talker.
Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles.
But Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from Chicago Inc. this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia, which was formerly known as Clear Channel and owns 800 stations nationwide, including Chicago-based black music station WGCI-FM 107.5, as well as the iHeartRadio brand that Berry says will honor him.
Berry, who has referred to Chicago as "Thuglandia" and makes frequent sarcastic references to a black character he calls "Pookie" and the character's run-ins with the "po-po," has been making Chicago gags for at least a year and a half, accompanied by the "Peter Gunn" theme from "The Blues Brothers." Though his show is syndicated in cities across the South, in New York and in Oregon, and is available online, it is not broadcast by any Chicago stations.
That's not surprising. Less than two weeks ago, on Feb. 20, Berry joked that a bullet wound to a 30-year-old Chicago man's right leg would ensure "he will never be a professional field goal kicker."
Media Matters' guns and public safety program director, Tim Johnson, said that, even by the debased standards of talk radio, Berry's comments about crime victims are "reprehensible."
"If he was mocking the victims of a public mass shooting that makes national headlines instead of these very vulnerable people, advertisers would flee his show and he would be fired," Johnson said.
Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry ridicules Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, including playing “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries. This Sunday, iHeartRadio will name him “talk personality of the year.”
NRATV Guest: Father Is Besmirching His Daughter’s Memory By Criticizing The NRA
NRATV host Grant Stinchfield slammed a Newsweek column written by the father of a gun violence victim that was critical of the National Rifle Association, claiming that it was “offensive” and “propaganda.”
The author of the February 26 Newsweek opinion piece, Andy Parker, lost his 24-year-old daughter Alison in August 2015 when a “disgruntled former colleague” gunned her down on camera during a live news report in Moneta, VA.
Parker has since become an advocate for gun violence prevention, authoring several columns criticizing NRA-backed politicians and calling for state-level gun regulations. His opinion piece for Newsweek took on the NRA, President Trump, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, warning readers that they aren’t “just content to wage war against the phantom threat to the Second Amendment ... they’re threatening our First Amendment rights.”
In an interview with Breitbart.com’s AWR Hawkins, Stinchfield referred to the column as “propaganda” and “offensive” while claiming that “Andy Parker and his media cohorts in crime” are afraid of the NRA.
Hawkins, a frequent guest on the program, said he was “disappointed” by the opinion piece, claiming Parker’s piece “besmirch[es] even the memory of his daughter.” Hawkins went on to suggest that Parker “try to do something to memorialize your daughter in a better and more senseful way.” From the February 27 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Look at this Newsweek column by Andy Parker, talking about the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre’s CPAC speech. Parker’s column is offensive and it reads, “And now, the NRA is in a position of power, acting in concert with minister of propaganda Bannon as a steady hand on the shoulder of a volatile, pliable leader. I see a day in the near future where this troika unleashes their knuckle-dragging militia at a town hall meeting to intimidate and provoke. It’s only a matter of time,” he writes, “and we can only hope it doesn’t lead to tragedy.” Parker fails to mention it’s left-wing paid protesters that destroyed property and beat up anyone who supports the president. It’s the left-wing, George Soros paid anarchists that America needs to worry about. Nothing makes me more angry than to read propaganda like what we saw in Newsweek, besmirching the good name and law-abiding reputations the members of the NRA have. The members of the NRA: the most responsible citizens in the United States, and we have the stats to back that up. So when Wayne LaPierre issues a call to action, it’s about letting our voices be heard. It’s about unifying a base. What frightens the likes of Andy Parker and his media cohorts in crime is that the NRA has proven its power by electing a president. It had nothing to do with our firearms and everything to do with our resolve and passion to return America to greatness. Someone who is familiar with the mainstream media bias is senior columnist for Breitbart AWR Hawkins, a great friend of the program. AWR, great to see you again.
AWR HAWKINS: Great to be with you. Thanks.
STINCHFIELD: I would imagine you cannot be surprised by Andy Parker’s Newsweek column?
HAWKINS: No, I’m kinda disappointed. I mean, I’m disappointed -- I think he continues to harm, in my opinion, not harm but besmirch even the memory of his daughter. We all share in agony of what happened to her. She was killed by a man who passed a background check to acquire his gun. A man who went through all of the steps the left says you have to go through to keep ourselves safe. Who proved again the impotency of gun control. And it just seems like out of respect for her, you would pull out of this argument and just continue to -- try to do something to memorialize your daughter in a better and more senseful way.
This is not the first time the NRA has attacked Parker since he lost his daughter. NRATV host Colion Noir warned Parker against becoming “so emotional” in response to the shooting that he would channel his “grief-inspired advocacy” into gun safety efforts.
Parker’s warning about the NRA’s view of the First Amendment was apt. NRATV routinely claims that dissent against Trump and other First Amendment-protected activities such as reporting on the president are antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.
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After Republicans led a vote in the House of Representatives to repeal President Barack Obama’s executive action preventing some severely mentally ill Social Security recipients from purchasing a firearm members of conservative media, particularly those with ties to the National Rifle Association, falsely labeled the regulation a “gun grab.” They claimed the Obama administration had deemed any recipient receiving financial aid “mentally deficient” and stripped them of “due process,” even though the regulation covers only 75,000 severely mentally ill individuals and has a due process component allowing for an appeal.
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Neo-Nazis Celebrate: "Donald Trump Is Setting Us Free"
Just days after Canada suffered a deadly gun massacre at the hands of a homegrown, right-wing radical who opened fired on praying Muslims, the Trump administration is moving to downplay the threat of homegrown, right-wing radicals in the United States.
Coming in the wake of Trump’s controversial decision to sign an executive order temporarily barring individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, Reuters this week reported that the Trump administration would direct a government-run program called Countering Violent Extremism to change its name to Countering Islamic Extremism or Countering Radical Islamic Extremism. In doing so, the program “would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.” (The FBI and the Justice Department will still track hate crimes and prosecute homegrown terrorists.)
Downgrading the scrutiny given to right-wing radicals has long been a goal of conservative media in America. Now Trump is moving to turn that desire into policy.
Back in 2015, Fox News’ Eric Bolling was part of a chorus of conservative media voices who denounced a Department of Homeland Security report that warned about violence from “right-wing sovereign citizen extremists." Bolling insisted there weren’t any examples of far-right attacks in the U.S., while his colleague Greg Gutfeld offered there had been just two in “over four decades.”
“A survey last year of state and local law enforcement officers listed sovereign citizen terrorists, ahead of foreign Islamists, and domestic militia groups as the top domestic terror threat,” CNN reported at the time.
Concurrently, a 2015 report from the New America Foundation found that of the 28 deadly homegrown terror attacks since 9/11, 18 were incidents inspired by right-wing extremism, while 10 were inspired by Islamic extremism.
Dr. John Horgan of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell told The New York Times that year, “There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown. And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”
But some on the “alt-right” were furious over the government’s 2015 report. "It really is the most egregious politicization of national security," Breitbart’s Sebastian Gorka insisted during a Fox News appearance. “We're going to be looking for right-wing extremists when ISIS prepares to attack us? It's outrageous."
Meanwhile, white supremacists continue to express their deep appreciation for President Trump and his administration's plan to radically change the CVE program. “My hands are shaking right now as I prepare this article – I’m just that unbelievably happy,” announced neo-Nazi website Infostormer. “This measure would be the first step to us going fully mainstream, and beginning the process of entering the government in full-force without the fear of being attacked, financially-assailed, and intimidated into silence by the nefarious Jews.”
At neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, editor Andrew Anglin announced to readers, “Donald Trump is setting us free.” He continued, “This is absolutely a signal of favor to us. We are not a threat to America, we are American patriots trying to save this country. It is also a slap in the face to the kikes of the SPLC and the ADL who pushed for us to be classified along with actual Islamic terrorists as a way to legally justify outrageous abuses against us by the federal government.” (In the same article, Anglin called the actions of white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof, who was recently sentenced to death for massacring African American worshipers at a church, "silly" but "perfectly understandable if you put it in context.")
This remains the hard truth: From neo-Nazi killers, to a string of women’s health clinic bombings and attacks, as well as assaults on law enforcement from anti-government radicals, acts of right-wing extreme violence led by self-described revolutionaries continue to unfold regularly in the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a running tally of confirmed radical-right terror plots. Its most recent entry was from October 14, 2016:
Three members of a southwest Kansas militia dubbed “The Crusaders” are arrested after an eight-month investigation on charges stemming from a plot to attack a housing complex in Garden City, Kansas, that houses a mosque... The attack was planned for the day after the 2016 general election. According to an affidavit filed in the case, the men had repeatedly referred to Somalis as “cockroaches.”
That looming, present danger drives the conservative media, and the emerging alt-right media, to distraction. Simultaneously obsessed with pushing that idea that Islamic terrorists are pouring across America’s borders, while insisting domestic, far-right extremists pose no real danger, the right-wing media regularly attack the government for its interest (until now) in tracking homegrown terrorists of all ideologies.
In 2009, they tried to sabotage a report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis that warned law enforcement agencies how “right-wing extremist groups” might be out recruiting members in the wake of the first black president being elected.
Then too, there was a coordinated, hysterical reaction from the conservative media, which wildly misconstrued a report about skinheads and white supremacist terror groups to claim the Obama administration was trying to criminalize conservatives who opposed the new president.
In truth, CNN reported the study was actually “produced by staff members during the Bush administration,” and not released until early 2009. The report focused on "rightwing extremists," "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups," "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks," and "white supremacists," making it abundantly clear the government was not targeting mainstream political activists.
Of note in that the 2009 report was the fact that right-wing recruitment in the U.S. had previously spiked during the 1990s, “but subsided after increased scrutiny by the government following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings,” which were masterminded by right-wing domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh.
Today, with the threat of homegrown, radical-right extremists still looming, the Trump administration is doing the opposite and following the Fox News lead. Rather than increasing scrutiny, it’s proposing to scale it back.
Fox News has deleted its tweet labeling a suspect in the shooting as being "of Moroccan origin." Earlier today, Kate Purchase, Director of Communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called on the network to "either retract or update" its false claim.
Twenty-four hours later, Fox News still has not corrected its erroneous tweet that a suspect in the mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City is “of Moroccan origin.” The suspect is actually a French Canadian man named Alexandre Bissonnette who is described in one news report “as an online troll who was inspired by extreme right-wing French nationalists, stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump and was against immigration to Quebec -- especially by Muslims.”
During the evening of January 29, a gunman entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and opened fire, killing six people and wounding eight others. Police initially arrested two suspects in the attack: Bissonnette and Mohamed Belkhadir, who is of Moroccan descent.
What happened next exemplifies Fox News’ tendency to try to pin the blame for high-profile acts of violence on entire communities -- but only when doing so suits the outlet’s conservative world view. Here’s a brief timeline:
At 12:05 and 12:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 30, Quebec police released two tweets indicating that only one of the arrested individuals was a suspect, and that the other is considered a witness to the attack:
— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 30, 2017
— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 30, 2017
At 12:31 p.m., Fox News issued its erroneous tweet, claiming, “Suspect in Quebec mosque terror attack was of Moroccan origin, reports show.” It is noteworthy that at the time the tweet was sent, Bissonnette’s identity had also been leaked to the press, but Fox News made no reference on Twitter to the French Canadian, who was a bona fide suspect:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 30, 2017
This mistake would have been easy to correct. Given developments in the story that clearly identified Bissonnette as a suspect and Belkhadir as a witness, Fox News could have issued a new tweet with accurate information along with a note saying that it would delete the inaccurate earlier report.
Instead, hours later, Fox News responded to its initial tweet with two identical tweets that failed to clarify the earlier mistake. At 6:12 and 6:14 p.m., Fox wrote on Twitter, “@FoxNews Mosque attack suspect formally charged w/ six counts of murder; Second man cleared, identified as a witness”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 30, 2017
At best, this update fails to clarify that the Moroccan individual is no longer a suspect in the shooting: It indicates that a “second man” was “cleared” without saying who that man is.
At worst, the update makes it seem as if the Moroccan man had subsequently been charged with murder. Imagine relying on Fox’s Twitter account as a sole source of information on who police believe perpetrated the shooting. First, there is a “suspect” who is “of Moroccan origin.” Second, the “suspect” has been charged with murder, while another man has been “cleared” and identified as a witness.
And as a practical matter, Fox News’ response likely did little to stop the spread of misinformation. The update was sent more than six hours later. While the initial erroneous report was retweeted more than 900 times, the two identical follow-up tweets were retweeted fewer than 140 times.
But there is a larger, more troubling context to Fox News’ mistake and the outlet’s subsequent failure to set the record straight.
The shooting took place just days after President Donald Trump created a national firestorm by signing an executive order temporarily barring individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. While many condemned the order as discriminatory, contrary to American values, and unconstitutional, others, including people within the Trump administration, view the order as a first step, saying it should or will be expanded to other Muslim-majority countries. In this context, it would be especially important for Fox News to correct an erroneous report that labels a person from Morocco, a majority-Muslim country, as the suspect in an act of apparent terrorism.
Fox’s actions also have implications in terms of the network's tendency to use high-profile shootings to play a collective blame game. When high-profile tragedies occur, Fox News is quick to scapegoat entire communities if doing so aligns with a conservative agenda. When Islamic extremism is the motivation for terrorist acts or African-Americans are accused of killing police officers, those communities are condemned as a whole on Fox News. When white suspects are accused of killing police officers or terrorism is motivated by right-wing extremism, Fox News goes silent.
In the case of the Quebec mosque shooting, Fox News was clearly getting ready to play the collective blame game. At the time of Fox’s erroneous tweet, both Belkhadir and Bissonnette’s names had leaked, but Fox News focused on only the Moroccan “suspect.” Now that there is no Moroccan suspect -- only a white, right-wing, Trump-supporting French Canadian suspect -- we can expect to stop hearing from Fox about this tragedy and what broader implications it might portend.