May 18, 2022

David Leonhardt, who authors the excellent “The Morning” daily newsletter for The New York Times, had a compelling set of statistics in his Tuesday edition.

In the aftermath of the last weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo, carried out by a white supremacist who traveled to a Black neighborhood with the intent of killing Black people, there has been conversation about the violence of political extremists.

Leonhardt, citing numbers provided by the Anti-Defamation League, found that there have been 450 murders committed by political extremists over the past decade in the U.S. Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75%, while Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20%. Left-wing extremists were responsible for 4%.

The ADL also found that more than three out of four killings committed by right-wing extremists were committed by white supremacists.

During a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called white supremacy “a poison … ​​and it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes.”

Leonhardt wrote, “It’s important to emphasize that not all extremist violence comes from the right — and that the precise explanation for any one attack can be murky, involving a mixture of ideology, mental illness, gun access and more. In the immediate aftermath of an attack, people are sometimes too quick to claim a direct cause and effect. But it is also incorrect to pretend that right-wing violence and left-wing violence are equivalent problems.”

And that’s the point.

Leonhardt noted something that Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written: “Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat. The numbers don’t lie.”

Biden added, “What happened here is simple and straightforward: Terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted into the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group, a hate that through the media and politics, the internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced.”

The “great replacement theory” — that false conspiracy theory in which some fear white people are being replaced by people of color — is being used by many on the right, including some Republican politicians and some in the right-wing media.

One name that has been most associated with stoking those fears has been Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson. The New York Times recently 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.”

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democrat from New York, sent a letter to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and other top executives at Fox News to “immediately cease the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement’ theory on your network’s broadcasts.”

Schumer addressed the letter to Murdoch, his son Lachlan, who is executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace.

Schumer wrote about the shooting in Buffalo and also cited mass shootings in Pittsburgh and El Paso. The Buffalo gunman wrote a long statement that included the replacement theory, and the shooters in Pittsburgh and El Paso also talked about being angry over the “invasion” of immigrants.

Schumer wrote, “For years, these types of beliefs have existed at the fringes of American life. However, this pernicious theory, which has no basis in fact, has been injected into the mainstream thanks in large part to a dangerous level of amplification by your network and its anchors.”

Schumer added, “I urge you to take into consideration the very real impacts of the dangerous rhetoric being broadcast on your network on a nightly basis.”

Another sobering point

In his newsletter, Leonhardt also had this: “If you talk to members of Congress and their aides these days — especially off the record — you will often hear them mention their fears of violence being committed against them.”

Leonhardt added some Republicans didn’t want to vote for Donald Trump’s impeachment because of threats against those who had already denounced Trump. Some Republicans received threats after voting for President Biden’s infrastructure bill and Democratic politicians say their offices often receive threats after they’re criticized in conservative media. Election officials also have received threats.

Leonhardt wrote, “There is often overlap between these violent threats and white supremacist beliefs. White supremacy tends to treat people of color as un-American or even less than fully human, views that can make violence seem justifiable.”

More on Fox News …

While fingers can (and should be) pointed at Carlson for some of the dangerous rhetoric he has said in the past on this topic, it’s not just Carlson who is responsible. His bosses — specifically the Murdochs and Scott — have handed him a megaphone and essentially let him say and do whatever he wants on their airways.

Washington Post media columnist (and former chief editor of The Buffalo News) Margaret Sullivan returned to her hometown of Buffalo and wrote a column Tuesday with the headline: “A racist theory drove the Buffalo tragedy. The Murdochs thrive on it.”

Sullivan noted the replacement theory and wrote, “Now, right-wing politicians are increasingly adopting this philosophy, and many a Republican voter believes there’s something to it. How do you even begin to root that out? Not by shrugging off responsibility, which is what Fox’s brass seems to want to do. They’ll point to Carlson’s having discouraged violence but they won’t address the corrosive effects of his conspiracy-minded rhetoric, and that of other Fox pundits who tout the same ideas.”

She added, “As for those members of the Murdoch family who make the rules at Fox, they seem content to rake in the profits Carlson and his ilk generate. When Lachlan Murdoch gave a rare speech in Australia recently, it amounted to ‘a monologue that could have fit in seamlessly with the lineup of right-wing commentary served up every night by Fox News’s prime-time opinion hosts,’ The Post’s Sarah Ellison reported.”

Sullivan contends all this “hate — demented idealogy” — that makes up the “swill” ofter heard at night on Fox News could disappear with the wave of a hand from Murdoch. But don’t expect that to happen. And don’t expect Buffalo to be the last place we hear about the horrors of a mass shooting fueled by racism.

Carlson’s initial response

As I wrote in Tuesday’s newsletter, Carlson didn’t really address widespread criticism of him during his show Monday — his first since the Buffalo shooting. But he did say, “So what is hate speech? Well, it’s speech that our leaders hate. So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views out loud. That’s what they’re telling you.”

Los Angeles Times television critic Lorraine Ali wrote, “The hypocrisy was stunning, even by Tucker Carlson’s standards.”

Ali added, “Outcry that Carlson address his part in spreading a xenophobic philosophy known as the ‘great replacement theory’ — a paranoid notion that white, Christian people are being intentionally replaced by people of color, Jews, Muslims and immigrants — was met during Monday’s telecast with no acknowledgement whatsoever of the role Carlson himself has played in energizing white nationalists, but plenty of moaning about who the real victims are in this tragedy: those in the right-wing media and Republican Party who were swiftly connected with the horrid ideas in the shooter’s apparent manifesto.”

Carlson insults Texas congressman

Whether it’s to distract viewers from the Buffalo shooting or that he is simply just a troll, Carlson stirred up more controversy on his program Monday, calling Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw “Eyepatch McCain.”

Carlson said, “You know the more I think about it, it takes a lot of gall for Eyepatch McCain to attack moms who are worried about baby formula as pro-Russia.”

Crenshaw is a former Navy SEAL who lost his right eye in combat and now wears an eyepatch. He has been a Congressman since 2018. The McCain part of the name is for the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan (the former co-host on “The View” and now a columnist for The Daily Mail), didn’t care for Carlson’s attack on Crenshaw.

She tweeted, “This is just trash. That being said I’m sure @DanCrenshawTX doesn’t mind the comparison.”

The primary thing

Tuesday was primary day in several pivotal states, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon. I’ll have more in Thursday’s newsletter about who won, the coverage, and what it means for the 2022 midterms.

The big races are in Pennsylvania. As The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips wrote in her “The 5-Minute Fix” newsletter, “In the battle for control of the Senate, which stands at 50 to 50 now, Pennsylvania is a state Republicans probably need to win in November to seize control.”

Media tidbits

New NBC News and MSNBC contributor Alyssa London, appearing on Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. (Courtesy: NBC News)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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