December 6, 2022

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What role did right-wing media play in the Buffalo shooting?

It was a hate crime. It was not isolated. And it will happen again.

An 18-year-old man opened fire Saturday at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. Using an AR-15 modified with a high-capacity magazine, he killed 10 and wounded three. Of the 13 victims, 11 were Black. He specifically targeted that neighborhood, driving more than 200 miles to get there, and livestreamed the attack. But before that, he is believed to have written a 180-page, hate-filled, white supremacist manifesto. The common theme: the idea that white Americans would be replaced by people of color.

CNN, which reviewed a copy of the manifesto, reported, “The manifesto’s author attributes the internet for most of his beliefs and describes himself as a fascist, a White supremacist and an anti-Semite.”

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday, “The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime. This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.”

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote, “Do not dare look away from the bloody horror that left 10 dead in Buffalo. Do not dare write off the shooter as somehow uniquely ‘troubled.’ Those Black victims were murdered by white supremacy, which grows today in fertile soil nourished not just by fringe-dwelling racists but by politicians and other opportunists who call themselves mainstream.”

The New York Times’ Troy Closson, Eduardo Medina and Jack Healy wrote, “Gunmen have referenced the racist idea, known as ‘replacement theory,’ during a string of mass shootings and other violence in recent years. It was once associated with the far-right fringe, but has become increasingly mainstream, pushed by politicians and popular television programs.”

And it’s what the Buffalo shooter referenced over and over again in his manifesto.

“It’s the same conspiracy theory you hear in prime time on Fox News,” said CNN’s Brian Stelter on his Sunday show “Reliable Sources.”

These shooters are not “lone wolves” or good “kids” gone bad and should not be labeled as such. Speaking on “Reliable Sources,” former ABC and NBC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo said, “We know these are violent domestic terrorists who subscribe to a group idealogy of white supremacy. … We need to start talking about these incidents in the context of domestic terrorism fuelled by white supremacist ideology.”

Later, Schiavocampo added, “There’s no question that outlets like Fox News are responsible, in large part, for mainstreaming these conspiracy theories that have largely been relegated in the past to the far-right fringe. So when we talk about this replacement theory, this is the idea that there is an active plot to replace white Americans with immigrants. This is something that used to be on the fringes. Tucker Carlson first spoke about it on his show more than a year ago and since then we have heard members of Congress repeat it.”

Just two weeks ago, in a stunningly-detailed profile on Carlson, The New York Times found that in more than 400 episodes of his show, Carlson has “amplified the idea that a cabal of elites want to force demographic change through immigration.”

In fact, it was a year ago — April 9, 2021 — when the Anti-Defamation League wrote to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, condemning Carlson for giving an “impassioned defense of the white supremacist ‘great replacement theory,’ the hateful notion that the white race is in danger of being ‘replaced’ by a rising tide of non-whites.”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, wrote to Scott at the time, “Make no mistake: this is dangerous stuff. The ‘great replacement theory’ is a classic white supremacist trope that undergirds the modern white supremacist movement in America. It is a concept that is discussed almost daily in online racist fever swamps. It is a notion that fueled the hateful chants of ‘Jews will not replace us!’ in Charlottesville in 2017. And it has lit the fuse in explosive hate crimes, most notably the hate-motivated mass shooting attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and El Paso, as well as in Christchurch, New Zealand.”

And now add Buffalo to that list.

Over the weekend on Twitter, you could find a clip of Carlson’s show from January as he responded to claims of President Joe Biden, who said, “Domestic terrorism from white supremacists is the most lethal terrorist threat in the homeland.” In the clip, Carlson said, “Where exactly is all this criminal white supremacy, this right-wing domestic terrorism that poses, quote, ‘the most lethal terrorist threat in the homeland?’ Of course, it doesn’t exist.”

To be clear, Fox News is far from the only place where you might hear such dangerous rhetoric, but as Schiavocampo points out, the size of Fox News’ audience is what is notable. Fox News is the most-watched cable news network, and Carlson’s show is the most-watched on cable news, routinely drawing more than 3 million viewers a night.

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote, “Other Fox News hosts besides Carlson have picked up the theme, giving it a veneer of respectability, at least within the conservative media ecosystem.”

Farhi used examples of right-wing media furthering the theories, including Fox’s Jeanine Pirro and Laura Ingraham, as well as notable conservative media types such as Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, the late Rush Limbaugh, Matt Walsh and Charlie Kirk.

CNN commentator SE Cupp tweeted, “The toxic garbage being pushed by MAGA, Q, Fox, and even many GOP members of Congress has REAL consequences. But these are the same people who’ll insist right-wing extremism ISN’T a threat to our natl security — it isn’t even REAL, they say. It was very real in Buffalo today.”

Washington Post columnist Max Boot, in a column on Sunday, noted how the manifesto of the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter closely resembled some of the things Carlson has asked about diversity.

About the Buffalo shooter, Boot wrote, “The young man wrote that he got his beliefs ‘mostly from the Internet,’ specifically from the 4chan bulletin board where white supremacists congregate. But his repugnant views are not confined to an obscure corner of the Internet. They have become mainstream within the Republican Party.”

Over the weekend, while hosting her show “Inside Politics Sunday” on CNN, Abby Phillip noted how Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) called out Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) for promoting the far-right conspiracy theory. Then Phillip added, “It’s not just Elise Stefanik. If you watch Fox News, this is the mainstay of their prime-time hours. Tucker Carlson discusses it in sometimes euphemistic form, but not really all that euphemistic.”

(Check out this clip featuring Carlson and some of the things he has said.)

Carlson likely will put his spin on this, as Stelter mentioned Sunday, and say how he condemns violence and so forth. But it won’t and does not erase what he has said in the past about race and immigration. And it doesn’t erase the influence he has on his viewers. (Farhi wrote in his Post story, “A Fox News spokesperson on Sunday afternoon pointed to examples of Carlson speaking against violence on his program but had no further comment.”)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery told Stelter, “When we look at the media figures and the political figures who are driving white supremacist violence, who white supremacists identify with, who they consider allies in indoctrinating and proselytizing to the country, it’s figures on the right time and time and time again.”

In a column for Salon, Amanda Marcotte wrote, “Now a familiar refrain will commence. No doubt we will hear a great deal of umbrage in the coming days from Republican leaders and right-wing pundits. ‘How dare you blame us?’ they will proclaim, in almost hysterical terms, acting shocked, shocked, that anyone would suggest that their words have had horrible consequences. The point of this fake outrage will be to make it too emotionally exhausting to hold them accountable, and to reinforce the ridiculous victim complex that fuels the American right as it increasingly slides into fascism. But let’s not mince words: These folks share the blame. They have been encouraging violence, and violence is what they got.”

But as Lowery also mentioned, these hateful ideas are as old as our country and not to be solely blamed on some cable-news host or even some dark corner of the internet.

“We could wake up tomorrow,” Lowery said, “and Fox News could be shut down and all the message boards could be shut down and these ideas would not disappear. It’s important for us to remember and think about, as well.”

For a while Sunday evening, the most-read story on the Washington Post website was from Marianna Sotomayor: “Stefanik echoed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect.”

The Buffalo News had superb coverage of the shooting, including:

Kate Snow anchored Sunday’s “NBC Nightly News” from Buffalo. Lester Holt will anchor the newscast from Buffalo this evening. David Muir anchored the “ABC Nightly News” from Buffalo on Sunday.

And speaking of the evening news, “CBS Evening News” will air an interview tonight that anchor Norah O’Donnell did with Patrick Sly, president of nutrition at Reckitt, one of the largest producers of baby formula in the U.S and maker of the popular brand Enfamil. O’Donnell asks about what his company is doing to ramp up production and get store shelves stocked up.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Over the weekend, The New York Times published outstanding work regarding a really grim story of our generation. First, it was Jeremy White, Amy Harmon, Danielle Ivory, Lauren Leatherby, Albert Sun and Sarah Almukhtar with “How America Lost One Million People.”

Using dots that represent every American death due to COVID-19, it tries to show the devastation of the coronavirus. But as the writers wrote, “The magnitude of the country’s loss is nearly impossible to grasp. More Americans have died of COVID-19 than in two decades of car crashes or on battlefields in all of the country’s wars combined. Experts say deaths were all but inevitable from a new virus of such severity and transmissibility. Yet, one million dead is a stunning toll, even for a country the size of the United States, and the true number is almost certainly higher because of undercounting.”

The Times analyzed 25 months of data to learn how certain “demographic groups, occupations and communities were far more vulnerable than others.” The Times added, “Understanding the toll — who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues. More than 300 people are still dying of COVID every day.”

The work is stunning visually and deserves your attention.

In addition, the Times’ Julie Bosman has another must-read story: “The Lost Americans.” Bosman writes, “In dozens of interviews, people across America who have lost family members, spouses and friends to COVID described how they have experienced the pandemic, from the fearful unknowns of the early weeks to this moment, with a reopened nation moving forward, even as more than 300 people are dying every day. They shared a dispiriting feeling: that the people they loved have been rendered invisible in a country eager to put the pandemic in the past. For now, there is no enduring national memorial to the people who have died, no communal place to gather and mourn. Many families are wondering whether the country views the deaths of their loved ones with real compassion — or indifference.”

By the way, Axios Washington D.C. reporter Cuneyt Dil tweeted a photo of Times’ front pages two years apart. The Sunday headline said, “ONE MILLION. A Nation’s Immeasurable Grief.” The headline two years ago: “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, An Incalculable Loss.”

Judy Woodruff in 2018. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The classy Judy Woodruff, a true legend in broadcasting, has announced she will step down as anchor of the “PBS NewsHour” at the end of the year.

In a statement, Woodruff said, “I love working at the ‘PBS NewsHour’ and can’t imagine it not being a part of my life.”

Woodruff isn’t leaving “PBS NewsHour” entirely. She will do long-form reporting and special features at least through the 2024 election. Woodruff was named the third recipient of the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism in 2017.

Puck’s ​​Tara Palmeri reported that Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett will be co-anchors to replace Woodruff in early 2023.

Here’s quite the exchange from Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said, “You got two members of the Senate — Sen. (Joe) Manchin and Sen. (Kyrsten) Sinema — who have sabotaged what the president has been fighting for.”

Moderator Chuck Todd said, “That’s a strong word, sabotage.”

To which Sanders said, “Well, you help me out with a better word here. You got 48 members of the Senate who wanted to go forward with an agenda that helped working families, that was prepared to take on the wealthy and the powerful. You got a president who wanted to do that. You had two people who prevented us from doing it. You have a better word than sabotage? That’s fine. But I think that is the right word.”

Jen Psaki wrapped her tenure as White House press secretary last Friday and left the press with these words:

“You have challenged me, you have pushed me, you have debated me — and at times we have disagreed. That is democracy in action. That is it working. Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong and you all play an incredibly pivotal role. Thank you for what you do.”

David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor of The New Yorker, gave the commencement address for Rutgers University’s class of 2022 graduation over the weekend.

Remnick said in his speech, “So much of what we cherish — democracy, essential institutions, economic security, even the Earth itself — appears fragile. Here at Rutgers, you’ve lived among what is one of the most diverse student bodies in the entire country. Without idealizing it, the student body here could and should serve as a model for so many other schools and American institutions. And yet, the struggle for greater diversity still meets with enormous resistance. That, too, is part of the American fragility.”

He added, “All of you have a stake in the future of freedom. There is no life of freedom without some sense of communal responsibility.”

Drew Brees. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

The wild offseason musical chairs of NFL analysts continued Sunday with the surprising, but not totally shocking news that Drew Brees is out after one season at NBC Sports. New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand broke the story, writing the decision was mutual. Marchand, according to his sources, reported Brees would rather do games than work on the “Football Night in America” studio show, but NBC has no games to offer Brees. NBC only airs “Sunday Night Football” and Cris Collinsworth, one of the best analysts in the business, works those games.

Marchand wrote, “NBC soured on Brees’ potential after originally believing he could develop into the heir apparent to Cris Collinsworth on ‘Sunday Night Football’ games. On the air, Brees, 43, had an up and down rookie season that was highlighted by a poor performance in his biggest broadcast of the year, the Bengals-Raiders playoff game.”

I’ll second what Marchand wrote on Brees’ poor performance in the playoff game. Meanwhile, NBC will have to replace Brees on Notre Dame football, where Brees did work as a game analyst.

Fox Sports currently has an opening for an NFL analyst and Marchand reported that Brees could end up there.

It should be noted that Sunday night, Brees tweeted, “Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided. I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I’ll let you know.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected]

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