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The Destructive Effects Of The Media’s Misleading, Racially Charged Headlines

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

When it comes to race and crime or even racially charged incidents, not all headlines are created equal. 

"Woman beats a 91-year-old Mexican man with a brick, tells him to ‘go back to your country,’" read last Monday’s Washington Post headline about the brutal anti-Hispanic hate-crime against Rodolfo Rodriguez.


Rodriguez had suffered two broken ribs and a broken cheekbone after accidentally bumping into a child while walking on a sidewalk and being repeatedly attacked by the child's concrete-brick wielding mother. And if that wasn't enough, the Post reports, several other "young men" came over and kicked the 91-year-old while he was down.

"Go back to your country!" the woman yelled.

It has all the tragic hallmarks of a hate crime, to be sure, except the Washington Post chose not to reveal the race of the perpetrator until the fourth paragraph down, almost as an afterthought (hint - she was a black woman). And even after she was arrested, the racial identity of 30-year-old assailant Laquisha Jones remained buried in paragraph four.

Of course, the Washington Post isn’t the only liberal media outlet to downplay the race of a minority perpetrator. CNN did it with the exact same case.

Using a headline entitled, “91-year-old man beaten with brick, told 'go back to Mexico,” CNN quoted the LA County Sheriff’s Department statement which said they were searching for “a female suspect and three to four male suspects.” 

Now I’m no detective, but is there a possibility that the race of the suspects might be useful in tracking down the assailants? If so, and had the suspects been white, would CNN or any other network have hesitated to identify that in the headline or at least prominently in the story?

As if that weren’t enough, it gets even more astonishing. When an arrest is eventually made, the CNN headline was: “Arrest made in beating of 91-year-old who reportedly was told to 'go back to Mexico.’” And in the article itself, the woman’s race isn’t identified until paragraph nine. (Hell, most readers have fallen asleep by then, especially if they’re reading CNN!)


Sadly, it doesn’t stop there when it comes to headlines and race, not by a long shot (but I’ve only got a column, not a book!). 

In May, the headline read "4 men charged with hate crime in ‘brutal’ attack of gay couple at Miami Beach."

The perpetrators? Four Hispanic men.

Contrast that with this headline from March 2017: “White man traveled to New York to kill black men and ‘make a statement,’ police say."

Or this one, where the race of three black “persons of interest” who attacked and used anti-homosexual slurs against two gay men isn’t mentioned in the headline or even in the article, though it’s obvious from the video.

Or this, when 18-year-old Willie Edwards and 21-year-old Marquavia Jenkins were arrested and charged with aggravated battery for a pretty barbaric (OK it was hilarious too, but that’s beside the point) road rage incident earlier this month against what appeared to be a white and a hispanic woman. The largest outlet to even bother covering it was Daily Mail, and neither their headline nor their story mentioned the race of the perpetrators. 

Everyone knows that, had the races been reversed, it would have been on the front pages of every outlet in America, and we’d likely still be hearing about it today.

The destructive effects of the media’s editorial decisions when it comes to race extend well beyond criminal acts to the lives of ordinary people who get turned into “racists” by social media after a confrontation they have goes viral.


Another Post headline, from last Sunday, reads, "#IDAdam, the white man who called police on a woman at their neighborhood pool, loses his job." Notably, this headline was careful to note the race of the man who lost his job after calling police on an African-American woman he suspected did not belong at a private neighborhood pool. 

Now, we’re supposed to nod and smile at this headline, like the man received his just comeuppance after the public finally noticed the swastika tattoo on his arm, the cross burning beside the lounge chairs (all this time, they thought it was a barbecue), and his “Make Our Pool White Again” hat. 

What, it wasn’t quite that extreme? Now why on earth would the Post and doubtless other media outlets interject race into an issue that could have easily been just a simple misunderstanding? Is there evidence the man openly discriminated against African-Americans at that pool? If there were, we’d have likely heard about it before now, which basically boils this incident down to an unfortunate mix-up between two parties.

Does an overzealous community pool guardian who demands IDs from two people he doesn’t know quite rise to the level of Bull Connor? Of course not, but the reporting, and the subsequent social media hysteria over the issue got Adam Bloom fired from his job at Sonoco. Honestly, are we at a place where people should literally lose the means by which they feed their families because they get into a videotaped disagreement with someone of a different color? 


In a similar incident last month in terms of media hysteria, Alison Ettel was trying to work in her apartment while Erin Austin and her 8-year-old daughter were loudly hawking $2 bottles of water to passersby below. After trying to get building security to deal with the issue for several hours, she called police. Predictably, the Post made it a racial incident with this headline: “An 8-year-old tried selling water for a trip to Disneyland. A white woman threatened to call police."

The woman, forever dubbed “Permit Patty” and probably “KKK Patty” too, had to resign as CEO of her own company after the backlash that ensued. Now granted, most of us wouldn’t have called police in an instance like this, but are we really to believe that Ettel made the call simply because she hates black people? Seriously?

It’s not just the media, of course. After all, they’re just reflecting the current culture of political correctness, hand-wringing, and general hysteria about all things race. But the fact remains, the media makes these headlines to get clicks, yet almost always abstains when political correctness comes into play.

Think a white person did it and it could have been a hate crime? Stop the presses! Think there is a 1 percent possibility that racial bias might have influenced an incident that 1,000 other factors were more likely to shape? Shout it to the rooftops. But when it turns out to be a minority, let’s have some journalistic integrity here and not jump the gun.


Such racially charged reporting has consequences beyond mere words, from loss of employment without explanation or recourse for actions that could easily be explained using non-racial reasons, to Democratic politicians stoking racial and political tensions by calling the attack on the 91-year-old Hispanic man the “real and tragic consequences of Trump’s vile and racist rhetoric."

Finally, if something truly ends up being about race, and we have proof, then of course it should be reported. But let’s report it fairly and without equivocation, and leave political correctness at the door.

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