We’ve all seen countless examples of alleged hate crimes committed in the name of Donald Trump on social media, but few police reports of such incidents. It’s a reminder not to believe everything you read, especially in the absence of evidence.
In fact, those reporting on the alleged Trump hate crimes are more interested in pushing a narrative than anything factual. That’s why you’ll see obviously satirical stories of hate crimes actually get approved and published, such as one that appeared in The Miami Student.
It included a number of absurdities and inside jokes that should’ve given it away that it was fake, such as one that began “I am a Muslim American woman and I am proud of my heritage. I am also proud to have supported Hillary Clinton in the recent presidential election. Islam is an inherently feminist ideology so naturally I stood by a strong, progressive leader like Secretary Clinton,” and later says “I burst into tears. My wife’s son walked into the room and asked why I was crying. I told him it’s because America chose bigotry and hatred over love and respect for minorities.” The “wife’s son” comment is a common internet meme in right-wing circles, poking fun at leftists as beta males.
And what’s the process for getting a fake hate crime published? To little surprise, just about zero fact checking goes into it. Let’s take Mic.com writer Sarah Harvard as an example, who earlier this month published a thirdhand report of a hate crime that went viral. Her source was her friend’s sister. If the police didn’t respond to her and refute her story, my friend’s cousins brother’s roommate was ready to call BS.
Via the Daily Caller: The story begins with a tweet from Mic staff writer Sarah Harvard, requesting stories of Trump-inspired attacks on non-whites, Muslims or LGBTQ people. “If you’re a person of color, Muslim, and/or LGBTQ, and have been attacked by a Trump supporter. DM/email me,” she wrote, providing her email for people to contact her. Harvard promised a “Safe space” for any alleged victims.
That tweet caught the attention of right-of-center YouTuber Matt Christiansen, who decided to test what — if any — scrutiny the journalist would apply to stories of Trump-inspired attacks. Christiansen and a friend cooked up a fictitious story of a white male who threatened a Native American women because he thought she was Mexican and later justified his rudeness by saying “white is right.”
Using a fake email and the name “Laurel Nelson,” the pranksters emailed Harvard their story with the subject line “aggressive Trump supporter.” The Daily Caller was provided with copies of the email exchanges between Harvard and “Laurel Nelson.”
“I was leaving Starbucks when I got bumped at the door by a Trump supporter. I ended up spilling latte on myself but he gave me the glare like I did wrong. I said ‘you can at least say sorry’ and he replied ‘just walk away and be lucky that coffee is the only thing of yours that spills. You shouldn’t even be in this country, and you wont be for long’ [sic]” the non-existent Laurel Nelson said. “He must have thought I was Mexican because I am dark, but I am Native American. I told him so and that we were actually here first. His reply was ‘doesn’t matter. white is right’ and pushed by me [sic].”
Within the hour, Harvard emailed back, asking for permission to tweet out the story, promising not to reveal “Nelson’s” name. She later did exactly that.
At no point did Harvard — who is on record calling Trump supporters the “American Taliban” — express any doubt that a random stranger on the Internet might not be telling her the truth. Neither Harvard nor Mic co-founder Chris Altcheck returned TheDC’s request for comment by press time.
The next day, “Nelson” reached out to Harvard to express doubt that the “rude white male” was actually a Trump supporter, writing, “I was talking to a friend about this incident and she brought up a good point. I don’t have any way to confirm that the guy in my story was a Trump supporter. I assumed he was because he was a rude white male, but there is no way to know who he really voted for.”
Her tweet remains posted, and she’s issued no retraction since the story was proven to be false…. by the person who sent it. If Ms. Harvard ever does address this hoax, I’m sure she’ll try to justify it as “raising awareness,” because surely such a hate crime must’ve occurred somewhere!
[Note: This post was authored at Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]