News and Commentary

HAWORTH: What Riots? Over 90 Examples Of The Mainstream Media Gaslighting About ‘Protests’
Protestors set a shop on fire on Thursday, May 28, 2020, during the third day of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday night, after an officer held his knee into Floyd's neck for more than 5 minutes. (Photo by Jordan Strowder/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Jordan Strowder/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

For months, violence has gripped our streets. Riots have been a regular reality for several cities across the country. Businesses have been destroyed. People have been assaulted. Stores have been looted. All that is needed to understand even a fraction of the daily reality for countless Americans is a simple search on Twitter, where you will find video, after video, after video. There have been some independent journalists who have provided accurate reporting on the riots and violence; however, if you rely on the “objective” mainstream media for your “news,” you will have a completely different view of reality. The reason for this is that mainstream media outlets like CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post have engaged in, arguably, the worst and most blatant act of journalistic gaslighting in modern American history.

Their abandonment of journalistic integrity involves several tactics:

  • Telling lies Stating objective and proven falsehoods.
  • Ignoring information  Lying by omission, involving an intentional failure to report on certain events, the attempt to use anecdotal experiences as evidence, or the omission of crucial context with the goal of altering the narrative.
  • Downplaying or mischaracterizing Describing the bare bones of an event while hiding its true nature by diluting with intentionally passive language or obfuscating with vague language.
  • Defending Reporting the bare bones of an event while implicitly or explicitly justifying actions, sometimes with the use of irrelevant details.
  • Shifting the blame  Directly or indirectly assigning blame, often to someone who is arguably a victim, based on the structure of the report or the details included or omitted.
  • Editorializing Assuming or projecting motive or viewpoint without evidence in order to justify an unsubstantiated conclusion.

Some tell outright lies. Some ignore crucial details, such as the context behind police shootings. Some downplay the nightly riots as “mostly peaceful protests.” Some mischaracterize events with irrelevant details, or excuse or justify the violence. Some shift the blame for violence, explicitly naming the political affiliations of some and ignoring the political affiliation of others. Some make unsubstantiated assumptions to justify their conclusion. Below are more than 90 examples (emphasis added in some quotes). 

NBC’s Craig Melvin, May 28 (link)

NBC’s Craig Melvin explains what will “guide” the network’s reporting: the “most accurate” description of what is taking place is “not riots,” it’s “protests.”

  • “This will guide our reporting in MN. ‘While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as “protests” — not riots.’”

CNN’s Don Lemon, May 30 (link)

Frequent Trump critic Don Lemon provides some historical cover for the rioting.

  • “Our country was started because, the Boston Tea Party. Rioting. So do not get it twisted and think this is something that has never happened before and this is so terrible and these savages and all of that. This is how this country was started.”

ABC News’ Eva Pilgrim, May 31 (link)

As noted by NewsBusters the big networks provided a lot over cover for the riots in late May. Among them was ABC’s Eva Pilgrim, who makes sure people understand that “most of the protests” are not just “peaceful” but “beautiful.”

  • “And I just want to reiterate, most of the protests that we saw this weekend were peaceful. One woman told me she couldn’t help but notice how beautiful it all was but she, like many, says she was worried about what would happen, when the sun went down.”

Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, May 31 (link)

GMA’s Roberts “can’t emphasize enough” that “many of the protests have been peaceful.”

  • “Although many of the protests have been peaceful, we can’t emphasize that enough, this morning authorities are investigating who’s behind the more violent ones.”

CBS This Morning’s Gayle King, May 31 (link)

CBS host does not want the message from the “peaceful” (“for the most part”) protests to be lost.

  • “You say for those who say the looters are hurting the cause, you said you’re not wrong, but you’re also not right. And I think it’s so important, Kareem, to make the distinction between for the most part these protests are peaceful. Where a lot of attention is focused on the looting and the burning of the police cars. And I just don’t want the message to be lost about what is at stake here”

NBC News’ Craig Melvin, May 31 (link)

Melvin downplays the violence again.

  • “It should be noted that the demonstration here in Washington and this is the case around much of the country as well. Those demonstrations were largely peaceful. In fact it was peaceful here until the sun went down.”

CNN’s Christine Amanpour, June 1 (link)

CNN’s Amanpour alleges that “the only violence” being committed is by police.

  • “I’m tired of hearing about violence and non-violence. The only violence I have seen in the street is the police… I have a friend who’s now permanently blind in one eye because the police shot her in the eye with a rubber bullet. That’s violence.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo, June 2 (link)

Cuomo says “protests” are not the problem, declares that protests aren not “supposed to be polite and peaceful.”

  • “Too many see the protests as the problem. No, the problem is what forced your fellow citizens to take to the streets. Persistent and poisonous inequities and injustice.”
  • “Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”

The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, June 2 (link)

As The Daily Caller pointed out, the Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, who headed up the history-revising and historian-slammed “1619 Project,” openly argues for the destruction of property and declares it “not moral” to use the term “violence” to describe the actions of anyone but an agent of the state.

  • “Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck until all of the life is leached out of his body. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence. To use the same language to describe those two things is not moral”

NBC Today Show’s Craig Melvin, June 4 (link)

Melvin again repeats the phrase that became a mainstream media mantra.

  • Across the country, massive but mostly peaceful demonstrations were held.”

New York Times, July 31 (link)

A typical Times report on the ongoing riots repeatedly describes violent rioters as “protesters” and vaguely references violence and destruction as “chaos” and “damage” that is often not directly attributed to the “protesters.”

  • “The clashes with federal officers were largely confined to a two-block stretch of downtown Portland. The mood tended to follow a predictable pattern, with large, peaceful gatherings in the evening turning to chaos later at night.”
  • “Much of the recent activity focused on the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, a high-rise structure of limestone and glass to which the Trump administration dispatched federal agents for protection in early July, after a month of continuous demonstrations.”
  • “Typically, confrontations flared up at night, with protesters setting fires and attempting to climb or cut down a fence that surrounds the courthouse.”
  • “During the day, the park resembled a campsite. Volunteers served free food and handed out water bottles and medical supplies from a cluster of tents, and a small homeless encampment was staged nearby. Police cleared the park on Thursday.”
  • Protesters relaxed near a tall monument in the center of the park, repurposed as a canvas for protest graffiti. Gawkers and journalists circulated, while construction workers nearby patched damage from the previous night.”
  • “The Justice Center, which neighbors the federal courthouse, drew protesters for weeks before federal officers arrived in Portland. Protesters set a fire inside the building on the night of May 29, four days after Mr. Floyd was killed.”

CNN’s Omar Jimenez, Aug 22, 23 & 25 (via Twitter) (link, link, link, link, link)

CNN correspondent tries to downplay the chaos and suggests leftist rioters are the true victims.

  • “A LOT of jawing back and forth but aside from a few shoving matches things have largely remained peaceful in downtown Portland.”
  • “Counter protestors chanting Black Lives Matter back, some antifa.”
  • “Important to note, these clashes are different from what we have seen nightly for almost 90 days in a row now in Portland.”
  • “Note: No riot was declared when far right demonstrators clash with Black Lives Matter counter protestors and when a live weapon was pointed at them.”
  • “A law enforcement truck just came barreling toward demonstrators from behind in Kenosha.”

New York Times, Aug 22 (link)

The Times focuses on left-wing protesters as victims and echoes left-wing talking point that Trump incited riots by sending federal agents to protect the U.S. courthouse.

  • “Mike Redwood, a Black Lives Matter protester, said he was hit in the face with a baton and Tased during an altercation with far-right demonstrators.”
  • “Portland has been the site of some of the country’s most visible Black Lives Matter protests since George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. There have been protests of varying degrees downtown for more than 80 days.”
  • “The regular demonstrations prompted President Trump to send federal agents to protect the U.S. courthouse, a move that mothers, veterans and nurses considered a provocation and protested against. Those agents, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, have since been pulled back, and rallies have continued.”

The Washington Post, Aug 24 (link)

The Post laments that people are perceiving the protests as primarily violent and blames Republicans, Trump and conservative media.

  • “During the massive Black Lives Matter protests across the country in reaction to the killing of George Floyd, many demonstrators took pains to show their commitment to nonviolence. Yet, according to polls, a substantial proportion of people watching at home perceived the protests as primarily violent. Why do people disagree about this?”
  • “During the BLM protests, prominent Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and President Trump depicted the movement as threatening, using terms like ‘thugs,’ ‘mobs’ and even ‘acts of domestic terror.’ Conservative media outlets like Fox News disproportionately showed footage of property destruction and theft to support the narrative that the protests were out of control.”

CNN, Aug 25 (link)

  • During a report on the Kenosha, Wisconsin riots, the word “violent” is removed from the chyron during the report. Watch the gaslighting in real time:

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, Aug 26 (link)

Washington Post columnist tries to shift the blame.

  • “Only one presidential candidate is deploring another shooting of an unarmed Black American and denouncing violence”
  • “Police at the protests also seem to have encouraged armed vigilantes.”
  • “the media ignores the degree to which Republicans contribute to racial injustice by refusing to acknowledge it exists.”
  • “Messaging from the Republican convention is clearly an effort to capitalize on racial violence. After all the protests, all the heartfelt efforts to diversify newsrooms to improve coverage and the deaths of so many Black Americans, how is it possible that the coverage is so frivolous and the lack of accountability so great?”
  • “… a spate of racial violence against unarmed Black people”

CNN, Aug 26 (link)

CNN’s infamous “fiery but mostly peaceful protests” moment and report on “things” being thrown back and forth as a supposedly valid “expression of anger and frustration.”

  • Chyron reads “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting” while fire burns in the background (video below).
  • “Things were thrown back and forth.”
  • “The common theme that ties all of this together is an expression of anger and frustration over what people feel like has become an all too familiar story playing out in places from across the country, not just here in Kenosha, Wisconsin.”

NPR, Aug 27 (link)

NPR reports on the 79th consecutive day of “protests” in Portland, suggests riot designation is racist.

  • “On a Saturday night in mid-August, the 79th consecutive day of protests in Portland, Ore…”
  • “Nightly protests passed their 90th day this week. Over the course of nearly three months, crowd sizes have at times exceeded 10,000 people and on other occasions been fewer than 100. Between May 29 and Aug. 27, the Portland Police Bureau declared 23 riots and 22 unlawful assemblies (that doesn’t include nights that started as unlawful assemblies and were later declared riots). But the laws governing those declarations are vague and have roots in Oregon’s deeply racist past.”
  • “On that mid-August night, in addition to yelling at police, a couple of protesters spray painted the building while others threw water bottles – protesters’ weapon of choice from the start. Police said rocks were also thrown.”
  • “Davis said, before dispersing the crowd, officers provide warnings and give protesters time to leave. But that definition of a riot is subjective and the dispersal inevitably affects hundreds of non-violent protesters.

NPR, Aug 27 (link)

NPR boosts radical argument that “looting is a powerful tool to bring about real, lasting change in society.”

  • “In the past months of demonstrations for Black lives, there has been a lot of condemnation of looting.”
  • “Now, as protests and riots continue to grip cities, she stakes out a provocative position: that looting is a powerful tool to bring about real, lasting change in society. The rioters who smash windows and take items from stores, she claims, are engaging in a powerful tactic that questions the justice of ‘law and order,’ and the distribution of property and wealth in an unequal society.”

CNN, Aug 28 (link)

CNN whitewashes violence that led to fatal shooting.

  • “Anthony Huber was armed with nothing but his skateboard when he spotted an armed person among a crowded street in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but he still ran toward the danger, his girlfriend says.”
  • “When the suspect shot Huber, Grosskreutz froze, ducked to the ground and took a step back, according to the complaint. He puts his hands in the air and then began to move toward the suspect, the complaint says. The suspect fired one shot, hitting Grosskreutz in the arm, according to the complaint.”

New York Times, Aug 30 (link)

Through syntax, the Times suggests supporters of President Trump and right-wingers were the aggressors, continues its “protest” gaslighting.

  • “A man was shot and killed after supporters of President Trump clashed with counterprotesters.”
  • “Portland, Ore., has had nightly protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.”
  • “On Saturday night, a caravan of supporters of President Trump traveled through the city, clashing with counterprotesters. A man was shot and killed during the unrest.”
  • “In recent weeks, right- and left-wing groups have clashed. On Aug. 22, a demonstration outside the U.S. courthouse in Portland turned violent as right-wing demonstrators, including Proud Boys members, clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters. Objects were thrown, paintballs were fired and shouting turned to shoving and punching.”

CNN, Aug 30 (link)

CNN masks the ideological affiliation of the victim, suggests Trump supporters are the aggressors against the “protesters.”

  • “His trip to Pennsylvania comes after a person was shot and killed in downtown Portland Saturday night after an evening of violent clashes between Trump supporters and protesters denouncing police brutality.”
  • “For more than 90 consecutive nights, protesters in Portland have denounced police brutality and racial injustice. The protests were spurred by the killing of George Floyd in May and gained steam after last weekend’s police shooting of Blake in Wisconsin.”

New York Times’ Charles Blow, Aug 30th (link)

Blow charges that by hammering the riots Trump is cynically using “white fear of violence” (which Blow implies is unfounded) and “white victimhood” as “political weapons.” 

  • “The use of white fear and white victimhood as potent political weapons is as old as the country itself. Donald Trump is just the latest practitioner of this trade.”
  • “He knows, as politicians have known before him, how white fear of violence can be exploited and used as a political tool. He has done it before, and he will do it again.”
  • “White people still, for now, are the majority of the population in this country and hold the lion’s share of the country’s power. Trump knows that if he can convince enough of them that they are under threat — that their personal safety, their way of life, their heritage, and their hold on power are in danger — they will act to protect what they have.”
  • “Trump believes what his departing counsel Kellyanne Conway told ‘Fox and Friends’ last week: that ‘the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.’”

New York Times, Aug 31st (link)

The Times reports on “the violence that has occasionally erupted amid largely peaceful protests,” portrays Trump and Republicans as spreading falsehoods about Biden’s position on the riots, takes pains to connect fatal shooting to Trump, and suggests right-wingers incited violence that resulted in fatal shooting.

  • “Mr. Biden condemned the violence that has occasionally erupted amid largely peaceful protests over racial injustice…”
  • “The issue is emerging as a test of whether Mr. Trump can shift voters’ focus away from the coronavirus pandemic and persuade a small slice of undecided white voters to embrace him as a flawed but fierce defender of ‘law and order,’ or whether Mr. Biden can counter that appeal by assailing the president as a provocateur of racial division and social disorder.”
  • “Mr. Biden took pains to differentiate between his support for peaceful protests and his opposition to acts of destruction.”
  • “At a briefing late Monday, Mr. Trump declined to condemn his supporters’ use of paintballs and pepper spray against protesters in Portland, Ore., over the weekend.”
  • “He used the bulk of his time at the podium to criticize Democrats and Mr. Biden, saying, ‘for months Joe Biden has repeated the monster lie that this is a peaceful protest,’ and falsely claiming that the former vice president blamed the police and law enforcement for the violence that was flaring.”
  • “Much of the Republican argument against Mr. Biden on ‘law and order’ issues is rooted in false claims about his positions.”
  • “A white teenager who has expressed support for Mr. Trump was charged with homicide after two demonstrators were shot to death in Kenosha last week.”

CNN, Aug 31 (link)

CNN downplays the significance of the rioting.

  • “While protesters have set fires at some of the nightly protests in Portland, and while some of the protests have involved violence, these problems have largely been confined to a small section of the city near the federal courthouse; most Portland residents have been able to go about their normal lives.”

CNN’s Chris Cillizza, Aug 31 (link)

CNN’s Cillizza says Trump correctly describing riots as riots is “desperation.”

  • “Trump’s efforts to label what is happening in major cities as ‘riots’ speaks at least somewhat to his desperation, politically speaking, at the moment. Trump, sensing that the race is slipping from him, has latched on to the events following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha earlier this month as a sign not of peaceful protests but of radical leftists rioting and destroying cities.”
  • “’He’ll use that grieving city as a backdrop for his campaign of fear,’ predicted former Obama senior political adviser and CNN contributor David Axelrod. ‘In Trump’s perverse political calculus, division equals addition.’ Yup. And making sure people view what is happening in the country as ‘riots’ rather than ‘protests’ is a key part of Trump’s comeback strategy.”

New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg, Aug 31 (link)

Times opinion pieces paints Trump as deliberately inflaming the violence and his supporters as the true danger.

  • “There’s reason to fear that the president’s attempts to terrify suburban swing voters could work, especially if the media uncritically transmits his propaganda. But that only shows how much American politics is trapped in Trump’s alternate reality.”
  • “However violence plays politically, the reality is that only one of the two candidates cheers it.”
  • “He invited Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple charged with felonies for waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, to speak at the Republican National Convention.”
  • “Recently he liked a tweet sympathizing with Rittenhouse, who has emerged as a macabre folk hero among some Republicans. During a Monday news conference, the president defended Rittenhouse, arguing that he was acting in self-defense.”
  • “This weekend, a convoy of Trump supporters in flag-bedecked trucks headed into Portland, Ore., to confront left-wing demonstrators. Once in the city, they shot paintballs and pepper spray at protesters.”
  • “But Biden is hardly a catalyst to left-wing extremism. Besides, at least some of the violence associated with the Black Lives Matter protests has been perpetrated by far-right provocateurs.”
  • “If the president succeeds in making political violence a Biden liability, he’ll have all the more incentive to set this country on fire.”

New York Times’ Peter Baker, Aug 31 (link)

The Times chief White House correspondent shifts blame for violence (which he refers to vaguely as the “response in the streets”) onto Trump, downplays the number of rioters, looters, suggests bringing up riots is racist.

  • “President Trump has seized on the response in the streets to police brutality against Black men and women to bolster his re-election campaign, employing provocative and sometimes incendiary language and images to incite his followers, demonize his opponents or both.”
  • “He has sought to conflate all protesters with the small minority of people who have looted stores, started fires and engaged in violence against police officers.”
  • “Mr. Trump’s approach, intended to divert attention from the human and economic costs of the pandemic, is consistent with a career of combative politics that play to racial animosities, going back to his time in business.”
  • “Since becoming president, he has seemed to equate white supremacists marching to preserve a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 to the people who demonstrated against them.”
  • “While aides maintain that Mr. Trump respects peaceful protesters, he regularly lumps them with those who have engaged in violence, calling them anarchists and thugs who hate America and likening the demonstrations to mob rule.”
  • “Rather than call for calm, Mr. Trump has cheered on his own supporters to wade into the furor in the streets, setting up collisions that have led to even more violence.”
  • “The president also seemed to justify supporters who cruised through Portland firing paintballs and pepper spray at protesters…”

CNN’s Josh Campbell, Sept. 1 (via Twitter) (link)

CNN security correspondent assures everyone that “the city is not under siege” and Antifa is not a real threat.

  • “The city is not under siege and buildings are not burning to the ground.”
  • “I also ate my breakfast burrito outside today and so far haven’t been attacked by shadowy gangs of Antifa commandos.”

NPR, Sept 1 (link)

NPR reports on “intense” protests.

  • Intense protests continue in Kenosha, Wis., over the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, whom police shot in the back multiple times at point-blank range just over a week ago.

New York Times, Sept. 1 (link)

The Times paints right-wing groups as primarily responsible for the violence in riot-torn cities, continues to refuse to use the term “rioter” or “riot,” citing “protesters” and “demonstrators” instead, and uses passive voice to describe shooting of Patriot Prayer member.

  • “As right-wing groups increasingly move to confront unrest in cities, clashes are breaking out between demonstrators with starkly different views on how to keep cities safe.”
  • “For months, as protests by Black Lives Matter and other groups have erupted across the country, the persistent confrontations have been largely between protesters and the police, with the conflict playing out in tear gas volleys and lobbed projectiles.”
  • “The police in Kenosha shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back, fueling protests there and elsewhere, while right-wing groups in Portland came into the city to confront Black Lives Matter demonstrators.”
  • “Then in Portland on Saturday night, a member of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group was shot to death in an apparent confrontation outside a parking garage after a caravan of Trump supporters paraded into a sea of racial justice demonstrators.”

Washington Post, Sept. 1 (link)

The Post suggests Trump is inflaming violence, conflates riots with “racial justice protests,” echoes Antifa talking point, reports on Jacob Blake’s record only passively. 

  • “Trump and his team calculate that amid the racial justice protests cleaving the nation after the death of George Floyd — an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police in late May — he can leverage the unrest, spinning the chaos into a political advantage over Biden and casting himself as the stronger leader to quell the tensions.”
  • “…antifa — the loose network of anti-fascist views associated with some on the far left…”
  • “The president and his allies, in tweets and television appearances, have suggested culpability on the part of Blake, pointing to a knife police recovered from his vehicle and reports that police had an arrest warrant for Blake on charges of rape and domestic violence.”

CNN’s Brianna Keilar, Sept 1 (link)

CNN host accuses Trump of inciting violence, downplays severity of the riots, suggests citing the threat that protesters are targeting neighborhoods and homes is “blatant racism.”

  • “Yesterday Joe Biden gave a speech where he argued that President Trump incites violence instead of stopping it, and instead of proving Biden wrong, Trump proved him right just a few hours later.”
  • “No matter how many times the president watches Fox News, loop video of a fire in Portland, this is nonsense. The local fire chief told CNN fact checker Daniel Dale that the city is not ablaze and for the isolated pockets of fires that broke out during demonstrations, they have only needed one fire engine for them.”
  • “That is a host saying you should be afraid because black people might be coming to your house to commit violence. It’s blatant racism, it’s meant to scare moderate Americans into voting for President Trump.”

Related: SHAPIRO: Why Won’t Biden Condemn Antifa or BLM Violence?

This article has been expanded to include more examples.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  HAWORTH: What Riots? Over 90 Examples Of The Mainstream Media Gaslighting About ‘Protests’