There have been at least three examples of the media downplaying arson amid ongoing riots across America – even when the proof appears directly behind them.
Protesting and rioting began in May following the death of George Floyd. Riots have occurred in many cities, including Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha and Washington, D.C. At times, the media has appeared to downplay this violence, claiming the scene is “mostly peaceful” even as fires rage on screen.
In May, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi was reporting live from Minneapolis, where protesting repeatedly turned to rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Velshi claimed that the scene around him “looked a lot calmer than yesterday” while noting that “four fires” were burning nearby.
Velshi even pointed out the multiple fires – one of which was a building engulfed in flames behind him – and still continued on to downplay the scene.
“I want to be clear on how I characterize this,” Velshi said in front of the burning building. “This is mostly a protest. It is not, generally speaking, unruly but fires have been started and this crowd is relishing that.”
That same day, MSNBC announced that it would not frame its reporting using the word “riots” during its Minneapolis coverage, according to a tweet from MSNBC host Craig Melvin. (RELATED: CNN Correspondent Arrested Live On-Air During Minneapolis Riots)
“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,” Melvin tweeted.
In August, rioting occurred for multiple days in Kenosha, Wisconsin after the police-related shooting of Jacob Blake. CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez was on the ground one of the evenings as rioters burned multiple buildings to the ground.
Jimenez described the scene at the time, which showed a car lot up in flames, as being in “stark contrast” to the “largely peaceful demonstrations” that occurred earlier in the day.
“Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting,” the CNN chyron read as Jimenez reported in front of one of the fires.
Jimenez continued on to downplay the violence occurring, explaining that “the common theme that ties all of this together is an expression of anger and frustration over what people feel like what has become an all too familiar story.”
CNN reporter reports in front of a burning building in Kenosha with a chyron that reads “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 27, 2020
Just a few days later on August 30, CNN’s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza was criticized after tweeting out a comment about President Donald Trump using the word “riots.”
“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,” Cillizza tweeted with a link to an analysis article he published.
Cillizza’s tweet included a photograph showing police officers standing guard in front of a building that was entirely engulfed in flames.
Trump’s efforts to label what is happening in major cities as “riots” speaks at least somewhat to his desperation, politically speaking, at the momenthttps://t.co/tQJ495xOZK pic.twitter.com/vs19vtCHiW
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) August 30, 2020
Cillizza’s analysis describes “the five BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail.” Number one for this article was “‘Protests’ vs. ‘riots.'”
“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,” Cillizza wrote as he noted the president plans to go to Kenosha on Tuesday to survey damage done to the city.
“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,” he added.