— Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), in an Al Jazeera interview from February 2018 that aired on Fox News, July 25, 2019
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the deceptive video to the Daily Caller and said it was tweeted by a Daily Caller reporter. Neither statement is correct.
An old interview with Omar popped up on Fox News, Daily Caller and CBN.com. That, in turn, prompted this tweet by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who just a week ago insisted the “outrage and response cycle” was “a stupid game I refuse to play.”
But there’s a problem: The video that Rubio tweeted was deceptively edited, removing a key part of Omar’s comment. Moreover, the headline on the original tweet misleadingly asserted: “Ilhan Omar contends that Americans ‘should be more fearful of white men.’"
Omar was interviewed by Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan, who asked her: “A lot of conservatives would say the rise of Islamophobia is the result not of hate but of fear, a legitimate fear they say, of quote-unquote Jihadist terrorism, whether it’s Fort Hood, San Bernardino or the recent truck attack in New York. What do you say to them?”
Omar’s full comment is above. But the clip tweeted by Rubio snipped out these words: “so if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe, Americans safe inside of this country.” That rendered Omar’s statement as:
“I would say our country should be more fearful of white men across our country because they are actually causing most of the deaths within this country. We should be profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men.”
In June, we launched the Fact Checker’s guide to manipulated video, part of an effort to create a universal language to label manipulated video and hold creators and sharers of this misinformation accountable. The clipped video is an example of “Deceptive Editing — Omission,” when a portion of the video is snipped to leave a misimpression.
The original tweet is an example of “Missing Context — Misrepresentation.” It asserted the lawmaker said “Americans should be more fearful of white men,” completely removing any reference to terrorist acts.
It’s possible that Rubio is an example of a viewer who was duped by the misleading headline and the edited video. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Jeremy Slevin, Omar’s spokesman, said she was referring to an annual report issued by the Anti-Defamation League. The 2019 report says right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 extremist-related killings in the United States in 2018. That’s more such deaths than in any year since 1995.
In 2018, the report said, white supremacists were responsible for 78 percent of “extremist-related murders,” compared with 16 percent by anti-government extremists, 3 percent incel extremism (hatred of women) and 2 percent Islamist extremism.
The report said that between 2009 and 2018, there were 12 lethal domestic incidents involving Islamist extremists. They resulted in 100 deaths, with almost half of those deaths — 49 — occurring in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The 100 deaths amount to almost one-quarter of the 427 deaths attributed to extremists in that 10-year period.
By contrast, right-wing extremists were responsible for almost three-quarters of the deaths, the ADL said.
Slevin noted that Omar has spoken out against the threat of white nationalism in other contexts, as well.
In a 2017 report with a somewhat wider time frame — Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016 — the Government Accountability Office found there have been 85 attacks in the country by extremists, resulting in 225 deaths. (GAO used data from the U.S. Extremist Crime Database.) That report found slightly more people killed by Islamist extremists than far-right extremists, but only because 41 percent of the deaths stemmed from the Orlando shooting rampage. Almost three times as many attacks were carried out by far-right extremists in that period.
Now, Omar could certainly be faulted for using sloppy language. She never actually refers to white supremacists or white nationalism in her answer, which is one reason it was so easily manipulated.
Moreover, given that the United States is almost 75 percent white, it stands to reason that a similar percentage of mass shootings and/or terrorist incidents would be committed by whites. It would be a mistake to suggest that whites are overrepresented — although virtually all such killers are men.
Update: After this fact check was published, Rubio tweeted this response:
"These questions prove my point. If a Republican grouped all men, of any background or ethnicity, together in any negative context -- especially terrorism -- many in the media would immediately demand that other Republicans disavow their statement. But when Rep. Omar suggested white men -- not white supremacists or white nationalists, white men -- pose a greater danger than jihadists, many in the media rushed to her defense and attacked me for pointing out this double standard.”
Rubio also tweeted this:
The Pinocchio Test
Within context, Omar makes a valid — if somewhat confusingly phrased — point. But her words were twisted in the tweet and video. Rubio had no business retweeting it without understanding the full context of the interview. All viewers should check the facts before retweeting or jumping to conclusions about a video circulated on social media. Rather than an example of racism, this should serve as a cautionary tale for the Republican senator from Florida. He earns Four Pinocchios.
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