The New York Times on Thursday downplayed new data showing an ongoing surge in murders in the United States — emphasizing that the rise in the national murder rate has slowed down.
The media is often accused of minimizing the destructiveness of the racial justice protests that erupted nationwide last summer following the police slaying of George Floyd.
The Times’ report was based on preliminary data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the authoritative annual summary of U.S. crime, which showed the murder rate spiked 29% last year, the biggest jump since the early 1990s.
But Times crime analyst Jeff Ashwer went out of his way to find the silver lining, doing his own research on big cities to show the “increase in murders this summer does not appear to be as large as the record spike last summer.”
- According to Ashwer’s math, the homicide rate increased by another 9.9% in the past year, which he called “at least one promising sign.”
- Also, he observed, the homicide rate “still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s,” per the FBI data.
While Ashwer confirmed “large increases in retirements” among police last year, he did not include the cultural scorn many officers complain of on his list of potential explanations for the trend.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Times analysis of the FBI data caused a stir on Twitter, where it was illustrated by a graph of the murder rate that cut off just before the spike was visible.
Mike Baker, a national correspondent at the paper, shared the report and noted: “Rates were up in cities big and small, Trump counties and Biden ones” — leaving out that the rates in big cities, mostly run by Democrats, increased by 40% on average.
Twitter commentators on the right, however, made the connection between the U.S. crime surge and the “defund the police” ethos embraced by Democratic leaders.
Some derided the Times’ positive spin on the horrific news.
- “Great news, guys! We’re whacking the hell out of that second derivative!” quipped Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle.
Others pointed to similarly tendentious framings by various news outlets.
Media outlets keep including this asterisk about the “early 1990s” to get out of saying “highest since 1997” which also sounds really bad https://t.co/uqYBJFqU2d
— Joe Gabriel Simonson (@SaysSimonson) September 22, 2021
Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany tried to pin the U.S. murder surge on President Joe Biden, before she apparently released the peak came when she was still Donald Trump’s press secretary and deleted her tweet.
For many critics, the media’s preferred narrative about the racial justice protests was clear from at least August 2020, when CNN aired a now-infamous chyron during a live broadcast from the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin.