Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent.
Now, however, it’s 2017. This means that “last year” doesn’t mean 2015 any more, but 2016! Figures on the year just completed show that homicides in D.C. fell in 2016 to 135. Thus the New York Times–you know, that flagship of trustworthy American journalism—through its reporter Emily Badger, decided to “fact-check” that statement by Trump from July, and found that he deceived us. Again. Badger wrote:
“Another end-of-year fact-check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent. In fact, it fell by 17 percent in 2016.”
There he goes again! Lying his head off! Citing fake statistics! But trust us, folks, we’ll be right there at the ready for the next four years, so he can’t get away with this constant deception!
Notice how the Times uses “claimed” to imply that Trump was making stuff up. But he wasn’t making stuff up. The Times was making stuff up by “claiming” in this fact-check that Trump misstated the facts, when he did not. He wouldn’t have even been wrong, as Eugene Volokh points out, if he had been comparing 2016 to 2014, the year he was comparing 2015 to in July. The homicide rate in D.C. rose by 28 percent from 2014 to 2016.
‘Trump falsely stated that crime rose in Washington D.C.’ is a lie. It is fake news.
Writes the law professor, using far more restraint than I would (or will):
There’s a lot to be said for not focusing too much on year-to-year changes in homicide statistics, which can be volatile. Even a rise over two years doesn’t tell us that much, though it’s troubling. And we should indeed remember that homicides and other crimes have generally declined sharply from their 1991 peak (though of course we want to be watchful for any reversal of the trend). If the argument is simply in favor of caution about reading too much into yearly statistics, I’m all for that.
But the New York Times “fact-check…” suggests that Trump got his facts wrong (he “claimed” one thing but “in fact” it was something else), and I think it misleads readers into missing the fact that, even counting the 2016 decline, the homicide still rose sharply from the reference year Trump was using — 2014 — to the present.
Another end-of-year reality check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent, apparently citing the previous year’s crime statistics. At the time, though, the rate in the city was already falling, and by year’s end, it was down by 17 percent.
If major news organization will do this, if their determination to undermine the new President is so deep and so hostile, why should Trump ever subject himself to their judgment? Why should any member of the public trust such dishonest journalists or their pundits about anything?
I am frankly stunned. It has been getting bad for many years, more than a decade, but I assumed that respected and professional figures within the journalism profession would stop the free fall before it got to this point, because at this point, the United States has no objective, non-partisan journalism to rely on.
One of the desperate, tangential justifications for supporting Trump over Hillary Clinton I heard from “Never Hillary” types was that at least with a Republican in the White House, the news media would begin doing its job again, actually reporting critically and not being afraid to oppose an administration when it was wrong or inept. (The presumption for the Obama Administration has been that it was never wrong or inept, or if either, it was all meant well, so give the guy a break).
But setting out to be an unprincipled partisan adversary that will mislead the public to protect Democratic narratives and malign the President is not the news media’s job in a functioning democracy, though our journalists see it that way.