Tara Setmayer was trying to talk facts on CNN and having a difficult time of it Monday night. The liberal host Anderson Cooper and Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson were tag-teaming against Setmayer, a former Republican congressional staffer who was attempting to explain that black people are much more likely to be killed by black criminals than by racist white cops. This highly relevant fact has been obscured by Black Lives Matter activists, and Setmayer was determined to tell the truth.
“Police shootings of black men in this country are very rare… statistics prove that,” Setmayer told Cooper, arguing that Black Lives Matter “has created this very anti-police environment” which led to last week’s shooting rampage in Dallas that killed five police officers and wounded seven others. Highlighting the danger that violent criminals pose to the black community, Setmayer made reference to the most notorious example — “2,000 people have been shot in Chicago, majority black folks, just this year alone” — but Professor Dyson wasn’t interested in talking about that. Instead, the professor insisted on talking about “instance after instance of lethal police brutality” and “racial profiling.”
Facts and logic evidently don’t mean much to tenured faculty at Georgetown University, and Anderson Cooper did not even bother trying to get Professor Dyson to address Setmayer’s point. Instead, the CNN host read a statement from Black Lives Matter, defending them against “misconceptions” about their movement. What no one in this cable TV carnival was willing to address, however, was the extent to which CNN itself has helped promote the false perception that black Americans are routinely killed by police as a result of racism.
CNN has a long history of going into round-the-clock coverage mode for stories like the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman, which fit into a certain social-justice narrative of racial victimhood. CNN devoted many hours of coverage to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. When the Ferguson protests turned into riots, however, nobody at CNN seemed to wonder what part their coverage had played in inciting the racial resentments behind the chaos of looting and arson. Going back as far as the 1991 Rodney King arrest and the deadly 1992 Los Angeles riots that ensued, CNN’s coverage of race and crime has been problematic, and the network’s apparent willingness to act as a publicity agency for Black Lives Matter is part of a troubling pattern.
Exactly how common is the kind of “lethal police brutality” and “racial profiling” Professor Dyson and the Black Lives Matter movement endlessly promote with the assistance of CNN and other liberal media publicists? The point that Tara Setmayer was trying to make was that the police are being unfairly demonized for incidents of wrongdoing that are very rare compared to the far more common phenomenon of black-on-black violent crime. This is not just a matter of scoring points in a political debate. Unfair accusations of police racism tend to undermine legitimate law-enforcement efforts, which in turn results in more black people being killed by criminals. Heather Mac Donald explores this problem in her recent book, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.
Like every other serious analyst who has looked at the actual facts, Mac Donald cites data that shows black criminals are more dangerous to black people than racist police. In 2015, more than 6,000 black people were victims of homicide, while 258 black people were killed by police. This is a 23-to-1 ratio, but the vast majority of police shootings are justified, a consequence of efforts to arrest armed criminals. Only 38 unarmed black people were killed by police in 2015, so that even if all of these 38 deaths were blamed on police racism, this would still mean that black people are nearly 160 times more likely to be murdered by a black criminal than to be unjustly killed by a racist cop. However, as Heather Mac Donald points out, racism cannot be blamed for every incident in which an unarmed person is shot by a cop. Of the total of 987 people shot by U.S. police in 2015, half of them were white, and 31 unarmed white people were shot by police. CNN viewers, however, are not treated to round-the-clock coverage about cops killing white people, because such incidents don’t fit the social-justice narrative that ratings-obsessed TV producers (and Black Lives Matters activists) are interested in promoting. Nor, for that matter, is any network news viewer likely to learn a highly relevant fact: While black males accounted for 40 percent of the unarmed people killed by police last year, data from 2005 and 2014 show that 40 percent of cop-killers were black.
Last year, more than 120 U.S. law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. About every three days in America, another cop gets killed. Police officers have a dangerous job, and being constantly accused of racism isn’t making their jobs any less dangerous. How much does the media’s irresponsible coverage of race and crime in America contribute to the “anti-police environment” that Tara Setmayer was trying to explain to Anderson Cooper? In The War on Cops, Heather Mac Donald notes how CNN has “topped all other television channels for relentless oversaturation” of its coverage of anti-police protests. Why do the news producers at CNN and other networks refuse to recognize how reckless it is to assist Black Lives Matter activists who incite misguided hostility toward police? Five cops died last week in Dallas, and probably many more police will be killed this year because of the dishonest “journalism” that is fueling a climate of hate, fear, and violence.