MSNBC’s Velshi Lets Dem Guest Overstate Police Shootings of Blacks

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Over the weekend on MSNBC’s Velshi show, as anchor Ali Velshi covered the riots and protests that have spread across the U.S., he not only allowed Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson to misinform viewers by overstating how many black suspects are killed by police officers each year compared to other racial groups, but he also flirted with rationalizing the violence of rioters by quoting some who have argued they should not have to obey the law if cops are not punished for killing black suspects.

On Sunday morning, Velshi – who is also a senior business correspondent for NBC News — began by asking Congressman Johnson to react to the protests, leading the Georgia Democrat to make a provably inaccurate claim that half of those killed by police actions are black:

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CONGRESSMAN HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): We are under constant threat of police excessive use of force and often times death. When you look at the statistics in this country of police shootings and police killings of civilians, even though we are 13 percent of the population in this country, we make up probably about half of the people who are killed every year by police.

And it’s gotten to the point where our young people feel that they are in a state of war. They actually feel like it is open season on black people in this country, and the statistics bear that out.

But, in fact, the Washington Post has been compiling a database of deadly police shootings since 2015, and consistently finds that about 25 percent of police shooting victims each year are black.

In 2015, out of 994 police shooting deaths, there were 497 who were white, 258 black, 172 Hispanic, 38 of other races, and 29 race unknown. Blacks made about 26 percent of the victims, which, according to statistics compiled by the FBI, was not out of proportion with crime patterns from that year.

Similarly, in 2018, blacks made up about 26 percent of the cases where race could be identified.

Velshi did not bother to correct his guest as he followed up by asking about the issue of how much the federal government can do about police violence when it is viewed by many as a local issue.

On Saturday morning, as he spoke with the National Urban League’s Marc Morial, Velshi started quoting the complaints of rioters who have tried to defend their actions. After recalling that Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on the neck of George Floyd for several minutes prior to his death, Velshi then suggested the investigation is moving too slowly as he added:

VELSHI: And there are a lot of people here who are saying “If that isn’t enough” — and that’s what a lot of the protesters, including those who are looting and engaging in violence — they were saying to me, “Why am I following these rules because no one else seems to be following the rules when it comes to the lives of black people. If that’s not enough — if all of this video is not enough — there are three police officers that are not charged.”

After Morial suggested that violent protesters have been provoked by such police actions, Velshi then followed up by arguing that he is not defending violence even while reiterating the views of rioters who rationalize their actions:

VELSHI: Yeah, I don’t want to justify any of the violence or any of what’s going on, but the message that I was hearing very clearly from some of the protesters is that “the concept of accountability does not exist for those who bring harm or death of African-Americans, so why am I following those rules?” I’m not arguing that that’s the right way to think about it, but it is a way that some people are thinking about it.

Relevant transcripts follow:

MSNBC

Velshi

May 31, 2020

8:08 a.m. Eastern

ALI VELSHI: I just want to read something that you said about the riots. You say you support — or the demonstrations, I should say, because they weren’t all riots. You “support peaceful protests heartening to see diversity, but provocateurs don’t share protesters’ goals. Some want anarchy — others want race war. Peaceful demonstrators should take pictures of law breakers and outsiders destroying our cities. Violence, property damage are not the answer.” What do you make of what happened across the country last night? Were those protests? Were those provocateurs? Were those vandals? What do you make from it?

CONGRESSMAN HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Well, it’s a little bit of everything in there, but I can tell you our young people are very frustrated, and they feel that they have no alternative but to take it to the streets, and they do that during the daytime, and they do it at night. And it’s a reaction to the reality under which our people are living, and that is we are under constant threat of police excessive use of force and often times death.

When you look at the statistics in this country of police shootings and police killings of civilians, even though we are 13 percent of the population in this country, we make up probably about half of the people who are killed every year by police. And it’s gotten to the point where our young people feel that they are in a state of war. They actually feel like it is open season on black people in this country, and the statistics bear that out.

(…)

MSNBC

Velshi

May 30, 2020

9:35 a.m. Eastern

ALI VELSHI: He had his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, during which George Floyd said multiple times, audible to the video, “I can’t breathe.” And there are a lot of people here who are saying “If that isn’t enough” — and that’s what a lot of the protesters, including those who are looting and engaging in violence — they were saying to me, “Why am I following these rules because no one else seems to be following the rules when it comes to the lives of black people. If that’s not enough — if all of this video is not enough — there are three police officers that are not charged.”

(…)

MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: As a nation, we’ve got to reform the police culture across the land, or this situation will happen again. Look, I don’t — I abhor violence, but you can’t just mouth that you abhor violence without trying to get a sense for what’s driving — particularly our young people — to this notion that they’ve got to do something dramatic in order to catch the attention of the people in power in this country. And while I abhor it, I understand we have to understand that this has been building for years. It’s compounded by the policies of the Trump administration — compounded by the fact that we have Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor happening in such a close time frame.

VELSHI: Yeah, I don’t want to justify any of the violence or any of what’s going on, but the message that I was hearing very clearly from some of the protesters is that “the concept of accountability does not exist for those who bring harm or death of African-Americans, so why am I following those rules?” I’m not arguing that that’s the right way to think about it, but it is a way that some people are thinking about it.

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