Just days after President Donald Trump came under fire for suggesting that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her so-called squad “go back,” Thomas claimed to coincidentally hear the same insult when using a self checkout line at a grocery store. According to Thomas, a “white man” frustrated by the fact that she had more than the maximum number of items allowed at her line began berating her, in which the Trumpian insult was supposedly uttered.
The media immediately began reporting on the alleged racially charged incident, with the victim as “Rep. Thomas,” and the perpetrator as “white male.” That was apparently all the description of the parties needed to make a judgement on the matter.
Today I was verbally assaulted in the grocery store by a white man who told me I was a lazy SOB and to go back to where I came from bc I had to many items in the express lane. My husband wasn’t there to defend me because he is on Active Duty serving the country I came from USA!
— Erica Thomas (@itsericathomas) July 20, 2019
Thomas later told the story in a tearful video on social media where she complained about how “this white privilege stuff is getting out of control,” but what quickly got out of control was her lie. The “white man” in question turned out to be a Cuban Democrat who supports AOC, and Thomas backtracked on the claim that he told her to “go back” to anywhere (though she did admit that she told him to go back at one point). According to Thomas, she assumed that the Cuban “white man” must’ve told her to “go back,” because she herself told him to “go back.” What logic!
I suppose the headline for a story reflecting what actually happened here wouldn’t have garnered so much media attention: “Georgia State Rep. Gets In Fifteen-Second Verbal Altercation at Grocery Store, Buys Groceries, Leaves.”
Where could she have gotten the idea to fake a hate hoax from? A tweet from over four years ago that I still can’t believe is real shines some light on that:
— Erica Thomas (@itsericathomas) March 21, 2015
The fact that Thomas’ story could be covered in publications including the New York Times is a sad reminder on how the tendency of the media today is to report first, and ask questions later. That’s especially true when it comes to stories on race – one of the few areas where in their eyes, the accused is always guilty until proven innocent.
Erica Thomas’ inability to properly use a self-checkout line may have resulted in the latest race hoax – but it’s hardly the only one the media has allowed to thrive in the Trump era.
A Cavalcade of Media Race Hoaxes
After Jussie Smollet’s story (and subsequent career) fell apart, the New York Post recalled some similar high profile incidents. To quote from just half of their list:
- Just before the 2016 election Hopewell Baptist Church was attacked with fire and graffiti that said, “Vote Trump.” The arsonist was Andrew McClinton, 48, an African-American member of the church.
- “Heil Trump” and ”F-g Church” were spray-painted on St. David’s Episcopal Church in Indiana after the election. It was the gay organ player who did it.
- Yasmin Seweid, 18, told police that three Trump supporters harassed her and tried to steal her hijab on a No. 6 train in New York City. The alleged hate crime fell apart two weeks later when Seweid admitted she made the whole thing up because she’d been out late drinking with friends and was afraid her strict Muslim Egyptian father would be angry.
- More than 2,000 bomb threats to Jewish institutions, including the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, were made in the first three months of 2017. In March 2017, an arrest was finally made in many of the incidents: that of a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli-American named Michael Ron David Kadar. Kadar had been rejected from the Israeli Defense Forces over mental health issues and claimed in his defense that he had a brain tumor.
- A few of the threats didn’t come from the Jewish teenager. At least eight were the work of Juan Thompson, 32, who was trying to frame a woman who had broken up with him. Thompson, a black journalist, had previously been fired from The Intercept for making up sources and stories. In response to his firing, he blamed the “white New York media” and claimed his editors were racist.
- Forty-two Jewish tombstones were toppled in Washington Cemetery in Midwood, Brooklyn, in March 2017. While officials were worried it was an anti-Semitic act, after an investigation, the NYPD named another suspect: the wind. “[It was] due to neglect, or weather factors like soil and dirt and wind.
- Union Temple in Brooklyn was defaced by messages such as, “Die Jew Rats” and “Jew Better Be Ready” in early November 2018. The culprit? Gay African-American James Polite, who had previously interned for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and was raised by Jewish foster parents.
Journalist Andy Ngo, who has been in the news recently after being assaulted by antifa, also has done extensive work documenting hate hoaxes (usually in his native Portland). This past pride month he compiled a list of recent LGBT related hate hoaxes (click through the tweet below for the list).
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 14, 2019
And of course, these are just select examples. I’d have to write ten articles to cover every confirmed hate hoax of the past two and a half years. To better quantify the frequency of these hoaxes, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, who is speaking of Wilfred Riley’s research:
Mr. Reilly eventually compiled a database of 346 hate-crime allegations and determined that less than a third were genuine. Turning his attention to the hoaxes, he put together a data set of more than 400 confirmed cases of fake allegations that were reported to authorities between 2010 and 2017. He allows that the exact number of false reports is probably unknowable, but what can be said “with absolute confidence is that the actual number of hate crime hoaxes is indisputably large,” he writes. “We are not speaking here of just a few bad apples.”
Not only are a third of hate crimes suspect, the data collected on perpetrators dispels that narrative that it’s “white male Trump supporters” carrying out such acts. There’s no question that alleged hate crimes have been increasingly politicized in the Trump-era to push an anti-Trump narrative, but there’s no data to back it up. As I noted back in February, the FBI’s data on hate crime perpetrators demonstrates that Caucasians make up 63.7% of the U.S. population but commit only 25% of hate crimes, which is a far under-representation.
The narrative doesn’t fit, but the media sure is working hard to make it fit.