After approximately 50 Muslims praying in a New Zealand Mosque were slaughtered by a white supremacist, the conversation quickly shifted back to statements supposedly made by President Trump after the Charlottesville protests that there were good people within the ranks of the neo-Nazi marchers.
It is now considered an established fact that Trump indeed made such a statement. The reality, however, is that it never happened. It’s fake news. It is a prototypical example of how a bias-driven media can create a false narrative.
Here’s his exact quote: "You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did. And you had people in that group that were there to protest in the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statute and the renaming of a park, from Robert E. Lee to another name."
When taken in proper context, it is clear that Trump was referring to pro-statue protestors, and NOT to the neo-Nazi marchers who were disparaging Jews.
Trump deserves criticism for his handling of this episode. He had a golden opportunity to beat down on the neo-Nazis and blew it. A woman was dead at the hands of a white supremacist. It was not a time to talk about the statue protesters.
Trump was correct that Antifa was complicit in ginning up tensions at the protest, but by focusing on it, he gave ammunition to the media to suggest that he was indifferent to this woman’s death and that he was seeking to deflect criticism that was rightfully being heaped upon the right-wing extremists.
Notwithstanding his inartful reaction, Trump did go on to say, "I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. But not all these people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of the statue, Robert E. Lee."
I experienced the same type of fake news in my tenure as county executive in Suffolk County, the largest suburban county in New York.
Our county was being impacted significantly by the influx of illegal immigration. While a proponent of diversity and immigration of the legal sort, I witnessed how uncontrolled illegal immigration was having a devastating impact on our schools, hospitals, and housing conditions.
I refused to look the other way as sixty day laborers were being stuffed into a two bedroom fire trap. I sought to ensure that county contractors were not hiring from the illegal underground economy, and we reported illegal aliens arrested for serious crimes to the federal government. But the fiercely liberal media took issue with these common sense measures and sought to label me as being anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic. The tension crescendoed when an Ecuadorian immigrant was fatally stabbed by a group of local high school students who were disgustingly roaming the streets seeking to assault immigrants just for the sport of it.
I responded: “This heinous act that led to the death of this innocent individual because of his race will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. We must be sure that the perpetrators of this act are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Days later, I was asked by a reporter why hate crimes only seem to happen in Suffolk County. I responded that they happen everywhere, but while these deplorable acts might be covered as a one day story in other jurisdictions, they are covered more extensively in Suffolk because of the vocal debate there about illegal immigration.
Lo and behold, the headline the next day read: “Levy on immigration killing: Just a one day story.”
The newspaper totally twisted the context of my statement. I never suggested that this heinous act should only be considered a one day story, thereby trivializing the death of this innocent man. I was seeking to debunk the inaccurate proposition from a biased reporter that hate crimes were only happening in Suffolk County.
But once the inaccuracy was picked up by other newspapers around the country, it became embedded as fact. Google the topic today and you’ll see the same narrative. I wrote the book "Bias in the Media" to clarify the record, but it won’t matter. Fake news triumphed.
I didn’t have the platform to be able to reverse the public's perception of what was said that day. President Trump, however, does.
He should not allow the mischaracterization of his comments to fester. He needs to send his surrogates out into the cable TV world to more clearly establish what he did and did not say back during the Charlottesville tragedy. He needs to speak with more empathy for victims. He needs to more clearly come out against the right wing crazies, even though he’s done it before.
But it is also imperative that he not allow an inaccuracy perpetrated by a left-leaning media to poison the general public‘s feelings about their president. It’s one thing to be derided because of something you said; it’s quite another to be held in contempt for something you did not.
Steve Levy, former New York state assemblyman, Suffolk County executive, and candidate for governor, is now a distinguished political pundit. Levy's commentary has been published in such media outlets as Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, Albany Times, Long Island Business News, and City & State Magazine. He hosted “The Steve Levy Radio Show" on Long Island News Radio, and is a frequent guest on high profile television and radio outlets. Few on the political scene possess Levy’s diverse background. He’s been both a legislator and executive, and served on both the state and local levels — as both a Democrat and Republican. Levy published Bias in the Media, an analysis of his own experience, after switching parties, with the media's leftward slant. Levy is currently Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Government, a fiscally conservative think tank. He is also President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. To learn more about his past work and upcoming appearances, visit www.stevelevy.info. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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