PBS Misinforms Viewers on Police Violence, Race Issues

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Thursday's Amanpour & Co. show, which is simulcast on both PBS and CNN International, NPR's Michel Martin seemed like a caricature of a misinformed liberal as she packed three critical pieces of misinformation into a discussion of police violence.

As she interviewed Princeton University sociology professor Patrick Sharkey about his studies of policing and race, Martin brought up what she perceived as a double standard in which police officers seem to grossly overreact violently against relatively harmless black men, but are ridiculously gentle with white men who have committed horrific crimes. Martin posed:

I mean, what role does race place in this? Like, I can't help but notice that, you know, Dylann Roof kills nine people in Charleston, South Carolina, and walks away, and the police officers buy him a hamburger on the way to taking him to jail. I can't help but notice that the same guy that kills eight people in Atlanta, you know, white guy, somehow is apprehended sort of peacefully. And yet a guy who has been stopped for, you know, traffic violations, for having air fresheners on his rearview mirror ends up dead.

She added: "And so, you know, people notice those kinds of things. So you have to ask: Is there just something fundamentally racist about the way policing is done in this country?"

The myth that mass murderer Dylann Roof was taken to Burger King to get a burger before he was taken to jail after he murdered nine black church parishioners is a piece of misinformation that was debunked back in 2015 soon after it first made its way onto social media. And almost six years later, Martin still hasn't gotten the message, and is still repeating the original fiction.

In fact, because police protocol demands that prisoners be offered food so they cannot accuse their interrogators of mistreating them, Roof was offered food at the police station while he was waiting for FBI investigators to arrive to interrogate him and take him into custody. One of the cops went to Burger King to get him food because the jail could not prepare food for him in-house, and Burger King was close to the jail.

There's even video of Roof's arrival in the interrogation room that shows him being offered food, and then being given a burger about 10 minutes later which he ate while waiting.

And Martin's suggestion that Minnesota resident Daunte Wright was killed because he had air freshener hanging up in his car ignores the fact that he had been accused of armed robbery just over a year ago, which was the original source of his legal problems that led to a warrant for his arrest over weapons charges.

Wright was pulled over for having an expired license tag, and then resisted arrest after the warrant was discovered, leading an officer to accidentally shoot him during the attempted arrest.

In fact, resisting arrest is usually a critical factor in police interactions turning deadly, which seemed lost on Martin as she suggested that it was just about race.

In her very next question, Martin recited additional blatantly false information as she claimed that black police shooting victims are usually unarmed, in contrast with white victims usually being armed:

In fact, according to the Washington Post's online database, the overwhelming majority of suspects of all races who are killed by police shootings are armed, with whites making up the largest portion at about 50 percent, with blacks at 25 percent.

And, among those the Post classifies as unarmed (several dozen a year), whites also outnumber blacks. But Martin claimed:

And what role does the large presence of guns play in the society? Although I do have to point out again, you know, white men are more likely to own a gun than any other demographic group, and yet they are not, by and large, the people who are being killed by police. I mean, it is true that more white people than I think many people realize are killed by police. Overwhelmingly, the white people killed by police are armed. Overwhelmingly, the black people killed by police are not. And so I do have to -- I just think it is fair to ask: What role does the prevalence of guns in the society play in that kind of calculation?

The fact that an educated professional like Martin who actually works at a job that demands that one be informed about current events still manages to get so many key facts wrong while discussing such an important and sensitive subject demonstrates just how much of a problem it is for a biased media to peddle misinformation. Imagine how misinformed the general public must be on the issue.

Ironically, appearing an CNN's New Day show just over the weekend, CNN law enforcement analyst and ex-Philadelphia top cop Charles Ramsey admitted that the media give the public a distorted picture of police violence, making it look like the only way African Americans ever die is because of police violence as he discussed the violent crime problem that disproportionately hurts the black population.

 

 

I mean, what role does race place in this? Like, I can't help but notice that, you know, Dylann Roof kills nine people in Charleston, South Carolina, and walks away, and the police officers buy him a hamburger on the way to taking him to jail. I can't help but notice that the same guy that kills eight people in Atlanta, you know, white guy, somehow is apprehended sort of peacefully. And yet a guy who has been stopped for, you know, traffic violations, for having air fresheners on his rearview mirror ends up dead.

And so, you know, people notice those kinds of things. So you have to ask: Is there just something fundamentally racist about the way policing is done in this country?

 

And what role does the large presence of guns play in the society? Although I do have to point out again, you know, white men are more likely to own a gun than any other demographic group, and yet they are not, by and large, the people who are being killed by police. I mean, it is true that more white people than I think many people realize are killed by police. Overwhelmingly, the white people killed by police are armed. Overwhelmingly, the black people killed by police are not. And so I do have to -- I just think it is fair to ask: What role does the prevalence of guns in the society play in that kind of calculation?

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