Commentary: Fox News Fails

Fox News’s Orlando, Florida, affiliate stokes racial tension by calling neo-Nazis a civil rights group.

Posted: 04/12/2012 12:00 PM EDT
Civil Rights, hate group, Neo-Nazis, racism, Fox News, Southern Poverty Law Center, National News, Trayvon Martin

I received a link to a news story earlier this week with a headline reading, “Fox Affiliate Calls Neo-Nazis a Civil Rights Group.” The story was about the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest Neo-Nazi groups in the U.S., patrolling the streets of Sanford, Florida, including the very community where young Trayvon Martin was killed.

My first impression was there is absolutely no way this could be right. No self-respecting news organization would even dare to insult their audience’s intelligence like that.

I know that the Fox News Organization isn’t the most objective news media out there. In fact I believe they are among the very worst when it comes to objectivity, especially when it comes to matters of race and politics. But surely even a Fox News affiliate would know better than that. I was wrong.  

The Fox News Orlando affiliate WOFL-TV ran a story on the National Socialist Movement (NSM), where they referred to them as “another civil rights group” and a “white rights organization.” Needless to say, I was shocked. What was even more disturbing to me was the fact that these words describing the neo-Nazi group came from the mouth of a reporter by the name of Jennifer Bisram, a woman of color.  

Furthermore, I was struck by the story’s total lack of context. There was no mention of the fact that real civil rights organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks racist organizations, lists the NSM as a hate group. According to the SPLC, the NSM is known for its "violent anti-Jewish rhetoric, its racist views and its policy allowing members of other racist groups to join NSM while remaining members of other groups." These are facts that the WOFL story failed to mention about the NSM.

The story also failed to mention that in December 2005, the NSM marched through a predominantly African-American community in a deliberate attempt to intimidate “the Negroid beasts victimizing White Citizens.” That incident resulted in a full-blown riot. Although the MSN was not held liable for the disturbance, their leader, Jeff Schoep, was apparently pleased with the results. He allegedly said after the rally that “the Negro beast proved our point for us.”   

Given the already racially tense atmosphere that permeates Sanford in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death and the sordid history of the NSM, WFOL should have done a more in-depth story — one that placed the neo-Nazi hate group in context. The station owed it to their audience to ask the NSM critical questions about their philosophy, their past and real intention in Sanford. Instead WOFL presented a puff piece that not only distorted the neo-Nazis’ racist image, but further stokes racial tension, which is exactly what the NSM wants.

Once again, Fox News fails the African-American community.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Courtesy Fox News)