Donald Trump gave a television broadcast in support of his wall last night with his typical mix of anecdotes, exaggerations and outright lies all mixed into a demagogic gloop and served in a tiring Trump voice. It has been called “an insult to the nation’s intelligence” by Vox’s Zack Beauchamp and a “wet fart Oval Office address” by The Daily Beast‘s Rick Wilson, while Mark Thiessen called the speech “presidential” in The Washington Post.
His main message was, as usual, that illegal immigrants are responsible for a massive crime wave. The message is wrong on multiple levels. Illegal immigration has declined precipitously since Obama took office. Most research shows that immigrants (both legal and illegal) commit crimes at a lower rate than American-born citizens. That is why Trump and his fellow opponents of immigration (both legal and illegal) always have to cite anecdotes so viciously.
But they always ignore anecdotes about Americans murdering each other, especially if those Americans are white Americans. It’s the same old story. In the run-up to the 2016 election, Breitbart fear-mongered about refugee children having committed a crime against a white girl (and lied in order to trump up the details), but the outlet entirely ignored a murder that took place in the same city Breitbart sent its writers to report from. Because the logic is the same, I now present the article I wrote on it, originally published at Medium:
If a white non-refugee murders a woman in Twin Falls, does it make a sound? — Breitbart’s “cover up” of white-on-white crime
One week after election day, a man trespassed into a home in Twin Falls, Idaho and murdered a man who was dating his ex-girlfriend. If the name Twin Falls sounds familiar, its because Breitbart and the alt-right were obsessed with the small town of 44,000 this summer. There was a wave of crimes, tuberculosis, and a “cover up” there, according to Breitbart. One concerned citizen even announced to a city council meeting, “ISIS is here.”
If you got your news from Breitbart, you would have thought Twin Falls was the kind of hellhole Donald Trump described in his African-American outreach speeches. Breitbart wrote dozens of articles about a sexual assault that occurred on June 2. Initially, Infowars had wrongly claimed that Syrian refugees had been involved in a gang rape. So many lies, rumors, and hyperbole had been reported after Infowars’ post went viral on June 20 that the prosecutor had to step in and correct the record and point out that the alleged perpetrators, who were immigrant children from Eritrea and Iraq, were being prosecuted.
Bretibart, however, was still able to use the anti-Muslim angle and elaborate. Breitbart’s Lee Stranahan went to Twin Falls to look for any bad news or crimes he could find that were committed by immigrants or foreigners. Going beyond just Muslims and refugees, Stranahan reported, “Mexicans plead guilty to local meth distribution.” Other big scoops included an “Eritrean” arrested for battery, and a yet another from Eritrea arrested for sexual assault.
But there was one story during that hot summer that Breitbart missed — a real “cover up,” in the language of the alt-right conspiracy-sphere. Missing from Breitbart’s parade of horribles was a crime of shocking brutality, the most serious crime to have taken place in Twin Falls all summer. On June 26, a woman was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend, driven to his home, and murdered. In desperation inside the house, Kelli York called 9/11. On the tape her cries can be heard — along with six gunshots. The perpetrator then killed himself.
Much has been written about whether former Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon, who was chosen as a chief strategist of Donald Trump, is explicitly or implicitly bigoted. Bannon had been accused by his ex-wife of making anti-Semitic comments about Jewish students at his daughter’s school. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers has pointed out a number of racially-charged articles Breitbart has published. Breitbart editors have launched racist attacks on Twitter. Its articles refer to humans as being “imported” and “shipped.”
All of this is true, but where Breitbart’s racism comes in isn’t just in what they do report, but crucially in what they choose to report — and what they choose not to report.
York was an American-born (white) woman (the fact of one’s nationality is explicitly mentioned in other Breitbart articles about victims of crime). She was born in a small town in Idaho, making her a child of the heartland. She had raised two daughters. Breitbart and the rest of the racist right-wing were already paying close attention to Twin Falls when she was kidnapped and killed and were deeply concerned (it appeared) about crime there. Why didn’t anyone report on Kelli Joann York’s cold-blooded murder?
There were a total of zero articles about it on Breitbart, Infowars, World Net Daily, and VDare, not to mention the mainstream conservative websites like National Review and Fox News.com, which also picked up (with much less intensity) the sexual assault story after it became a thing.
It’s not as if murder-suicides by domestic abusers are rare events in Twin Falls. In 2014 another man killed his once girlfriend and her daughter before killing himself. By Breitbart’s standard — two sexual assaults make a trend–Twin Falls was in the midst of a real life war on women.
There’s no big mystery why the alt-right didn’t care about Kelli York or LeAnn Schuldies and her daughter Brianna Cox, the victims of the 2014 murder, once you consider the names of their assailants: Lauren Jackson and George Salinas. They’re not dangerous illegal immigrants or Muslims infiltrating America. Why, Lauren was “a wonderful man” and “a good guy,” according to friends on his obituary. He will be “greatly missed.” Hell, he was an all-American in the “real American” sense who worked for the police department, ran a gun range, and enjoyed fishing.
The alt-right is guilty of something they accuse Black Lives Matters of: they don’t care about all murders. “Why isn’t BLM protesting black-on-black crime?”, its critics argue. Where the hell is the outrage about Lauren Jackson and George Salinas killing innocent white women? Do not all white lives matter?
This trend of ignoring white crimes applies to all kinds of crimes. This summer, in the very same city Breitbart was obsessed with for three months, Seth Brooks drove to Pizza Hut, concerned that his pizza had been “poisoned,” and threatened to kill a Pizza Hut employee while wielding a wrench. He was arrested on July 13. Breitbart didn’t report it. Two weeks later, Mulugeta Zemu Mana, who was identified as being from Eritrea, was arrested for aggravated battery. Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy wrote about it.
When Mauro Morales-Jimenez and Brenda Trinidad Jaime-Sainz plead guilty to selling meth in Twin Falls in August, Breitbart wrote about it, but not when William Lavelle Walker and James David Jones were arranged in April on charges of drug and gun possession or in November when Walker and Jones plead guilty.
While the arrest of Mohammed Hussein I. Eldai for sexual assault resulted in four articles, the July arrest of Catholic priest Victor F. Jagerstatter or sexual assault led to zero articles.
Is anyone seeing a pattern there?
The trend continued in November after the election. Late Friday night the week Donald Trump was elected president Troy Anderson trespassed private property and shot and killed Benjamin Day before killing himself. Once again, Breitbart, Infowars, and World Net Daily completely ignored the story.
Activist Nancy Taylor said in August, “A little girl was assaulted, and just because people of color are involved, it becomes an issue. Unfortunately, children in this community are victims of crime every day, why isn’t that an outrage?”