As Florida gears up to be hit by the next massive hurricane of this season, an analysis of conservative media coverage during Hurricane Harvey shows that many outlets spread overblown and often-times false narratives about black looters in the hard-hit city of Houston, Texas.
The analysis, conducted by Media Matters, shows that hosts and guests on Fox News and InfoWars propagated thinly-veiled stories about looters in Houston despite the city’s police department itself stating that “looting [was] almost non existent” during Harvey. The city reported 14 arrests on August 30 — a low number, the analysis notes, for a metropolitan area of more than six million people.
Nevertheless, Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson had Republican congressional candidate Dan Bongino, a former police officer, on his show on August 30 to discuss the issue.
“What kind of like certifiable savage man-beast do you need to be to walk into a small business [and loot]?” Bongino said during the segment.
On the same day, Griff Jenkins, a correspondent on President Donald Trump’s “favorite program” Fox & Friends, said Houston looters were “criminals that have unleashed the worst that humanity has to offer.”
Meanwhile, InfoWars’ Alex Jones trafficked an even more blatantly false and racist story when he claimed that Houston saw a proliferation of “black gangs” deliberately robbing white people.
“[They’re] saying, ‘Look at what we looted, look at what we got,'” Jones claimed on August 29. “They’re putting it on Twitter, ‘We’re robbing the white folks, they deserve it.'”
Soon after, Snopes documented outlets — both right-wing and more mainstream — retweeting and discussing posts under the Twitter hashtag “#HarveyLootCrew.” Their investigation revealed that two Twitter accounts posing as black men in Houston who claimed to be looting neighborhoods populated by presumably white “racist Trump supporters” were, in fact, fake.
“It isn’t difficult to discern the motivation behind these fake tweets,” the Snopes report states, “which were obviously created to sow fear and racial hatred in a time of crisis.”
Read the entire analysis of coverage of Harvey “looting” via Media Matters.
(Correction: A previous headline accused Fox News host Tucker Carlson of spreading fake news.)