The Genesis and Spread of a Racist Lie

In the midst of the highly contentious debate about immigration officials separating families at the border and flying traumatized kids by the hundreds across the country to God-knows-where, President Donald Trump held an “Angel Families” event focusing on parents who lost children to crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants.

Being surrounded by family members publicly grieving relatives killed by violent criminals who crossed the border illegally is the president’s safe space whenever he’s broadly accused of being a xenophobic racist. That’s his version of Star Trek: Generations’ Nexus.

So I was sort of watching this White House event live on TV in the background of my Friday afternoon when Steve Ronnebeck – a father from Arizona who lost his son in 2015 – arrested my attention by dropping a bombshell of a statistic.

“Sixty-three thousand Americans since 9/11 have been killed by illegal aliens,” he proclaimed, closing his remarks. “This isn’t a problem that’s going away; it’s getting bigger.”

Holy crap, dude! Sixty-three thousand Americans killed since 9/11? That’s some scary shit. And it’s not going away? AAAAAND it’s getting bigger? Why not just drop a nuke on Mexico already???

As applause for Ronnebeck subsided after Trump retook the dais, flanked by sullen parents holding pictures of their deceased loved ones, the president wasted no time repeating the mind-blowing claim.

Sixty-three thousand Americans. Killed by illegal aliens. Since Sept. 11, 2001. And it’s probably actually higher? OMFG!!!

“Sixty-three thousand,” Trump reiterated. “And that number, they say, is very low because things aren’t reported.”

Sixty-three thousand Americans. Killed by illegal aliens. Since Sept. 11, 2001. And it’s probably actually higher? OMFG!!!

It’s a shocking statistic. One that stops you in your tracks and makes you think torrents of bloodthirsty illegal immigrants are pouring over the border and flooding our streets with all sorts of violence. One that almost makes you think it’s almost exclusively murderers, rapists, and gang members that are coming here illegally, and that they’re doing so explicitly to pad their body counts with dead Americans.

Trump repeated, “Sixty-three thousand. And you don’t hear about that.”

SPOILER ALERT: There’s a reason “you don’t hear about that.” It’s because “that” is an utter lie shat out 12 years ago by a Republican member of Congress who retweets Nazis and has a well-earned reputation for saying things that sound like they were lifted from The Daily Stormer.

But how did it go from being a 2006 product of some asshole’s butthole to being on the puckered lips of the president of the U.S. in the midst of the most divisive time this nation has seen at least in this century?

That’s why the gods created the Googles. Let’s go back to last Friday, shall we?

After being rocked by the assertion from Mr. Ronnebeck and the president, my curiosity got the best of me. I had to find out if this was true, because if it was, my image of the typical illegal immigrant was far too generous and deferential. It would mean my perception of the motivation driving a typical person to enter the U.S. without following every jot and tittle of the law was nothing short of Pollyannaish.

So I started Googling “63,000 Americans killed by illegal immigrants since 9/11.” The resulting hits with anything close to that claim all fit on the first page of results. So I simplified the search terms, but “63,000 killed illegal 9/11” gave me no additional matches. Neither did spelling out the number.

“Well, that’s strange,” I thought, figuring a staggering statistic totally backing up what Trump has been saying since he announced his candidacy in 2015 would be all over the interwebs. Yet, only a tiny handful of the results mentioned it.

Donald John Trump – the man who hasn’t met a flattering thing he didn’t like – seemed somewhat skeptical of a stat that would likely win millions of Americans over to his side of the immigration debate.

Incidentally, most of the scant hits were published this past March, stemming from a similar event Trump led in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. To the president’s left at the table was Mary Ann Mendoza, who also happened to speak after Ronnebeck last Friday.

At the March 20 gathering, Mendoza spoke about how her son Sgt. Brandon Mendoza was killed by an illegal immigrant who had been previously “shown leniency in the state of Colorado.” (In her remarks three months later, she said a drunk driver going the wrong way on an Arizona highway killed Sgt. Mendoza as he was driving home following his shift as a police officer.)

“It’s just — it’s a common thing, and I — you know, some thoughts have come over my — in my head the last few days,” Mendoza shared, sitting two seats from the president, as Trump leaned in to see her. “This is actually a mass murder happening in the United States by illegal aliens killing American citizens. Over 63,000 Americans have been killed since 9/11 by illegal aliens. It’s a crime spree that is being left unchecked, and these sanctuary city officials — state and city officials — they’re putting American lives into harm every single day. And we have become collateral damage to their personal agendas, and it’s got to be stopped.”

Trump ate it up like it came with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. Eventually. Initially, though, even he, Donald John Trump – the man who hasn’t met a flattering thing he didn’t like – seemed somewhat skeptical of a stat that would likely win millions of Americans over to his side of the immigration debate.

“I got it, Mary. We’re with you. I never heard the number 63,000 people killed by illegal immigrants. Is that a known figure? Is that an acknowledged…” he wondered aloud as he turned to someone off-camera, apparently for confirmation, before Mendoza interjected.

“It’s an average of 12 Americans a day, which is how many are killed in the United States,” she confidently stated, nodding her head ostensibly at the same off-camera person.

“Sixty-three thousand people?” Trump again questioned.

“Since 9/11,” Mendoza restated.

“Since 9/11?” Trump asked yet again. “Boy. That is some number. I’ve never heard that number before. That’s an incredible number. Thank you, Mary Ann. Appreciate it very much.”

She’s an attractive white woman who thinks highly of the president. She obviously speaks the truth, right?

Finally, Trump devoured the dish that seemed too good to be true. Even to him.

And why not? She’s an attractive white woman who thinks highly of the president. She obviously speaks the truth, right?

In any case, a few folks picked it up, like the Washington ExaminerThe Daily Signal, and GameFAQs’ IMadepooh4U.

Nerds know math.

Oddly enough, the gamer nerds were way more skeptical about something shared by an admitted purveyor of made-up shit than those future Pulitzer winners who simply reported it without any scrutiny.

Moments later, I noticed another hit containing this gem, from a DailyNews post, explaining where the number came from. It was originally published in August 2010.

According to Iowa Congressman Steve King’s office staff, more than 63,000 people have been killed by illegal aliens on American soil since 9/11. A total of 33,215 of the deaths were the end result of driving without a license or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And an additional 30,660 deaths are the end result of mayhem such as rape, violence and robbery. These statistics do not include the nonfatal violent crimes committed such as rape and other felonies by illegal aliens.

So illegal immigrants went on a bona fide killing spree, murdering 63,000 between 9/11 and halfway into Obama’s first term, and then suddenly gave up offing gringos cold turkey, and they haven’t killed another American since? But I thought Mr. Ronnebeck’s and Mrs. Mendoza’s kids were killed since … . Never mind.

More importantly, it came from Rep. Steve King’s office. You know, Steve King? The soulless, dead-eyed congressman David Duke always knew he could be? That guy.

By the way, another 2010 post, this one by the Southern Poverty Law Center, seems to be the earliest online attempt to combat the lie by shining light on the fact it came from King’s racist ass.

THE CLAIM: Undocumented immigrants kill 25 Americans a day.
THE PURVEYORS: U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), in a May 5, 2006, column on his website, claimed that a day without immigrants would create a far safer America: “The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals.” King’s claim has been repeated hundreds of times, sometimes by extremist activists like Clyde Harkins of the American Constitution Party, and frequently by radio hosts like Peter Boyles of Denver’s KHOW-AM. Boyles also suggested last year that illegal immigrants had murdered 45,000 American citizens since Sept. 11, 2001.

Bump demonstrated the utter, mathematical implausibility of the 12-per-day statistic, as well as the inaccuracy of the resulting “63,000 since 9/11” figure.

So, just a quick recap so far:

“The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day.” – Steve King, to his constituents and supporters in 2006

“It’s an average of 12 Americans a day, which is how many are killed in the United States.” – Mary Ann Mendoza, to the president of the United States in 2018.

It was at this point that I went back to check for any more Google results I may have missed. That’s when I discovered, a couple hours after Mr. Ronnebeck and the president were speaking from the White House, that The Washington Post published an article by Philip Bump that fact-checked their extraordinary claim. In it, Bump demonstrated the utter, mathematical implausibility of the 12-per-day statistic, as well as the inaccuracy of the resulting “63,000 since 9/11” figure.

Consider that there were an estimated 17,250 murders in the United States in 2016, the most recent year for which full FBI data is available. Mendoza’s per-day number would indicate that there were 4,380 murders committed by immigrants in the country illegally — a full quarter of those killed that year. (It would also mean that her number was a bit out-of-date: On March 20, 2018, 6,034 days had passed since the 9/11 attacks, meaning 72,408 alleged murders.)

Bump additionally illustrated how the wannabe viral lie originated from the cold, loveless abyss King calls a soul (the rest of us call it a rectum) with the help of some atrocious assumptions he made regarding a figure he got from a 2005 Government Accountability Office report.

You can read the whole thing and see how King used logic as sound as the reasoning that, a couple centuries ago, led to the widely held belief that maggots come from rotting meat rather than flies attracted to the meat.

Or you can fast-forward to the end to read where Bump essentially shows King has a tendency to be a bit inconsistent with his numbers.

In 2011, King presented a resolution that offered a different calculus.

“According to the Government Accountability Office,” it read, “there have been 25,064 homicide arrests of criminal aliens since 1955.”

That’s about 1.2 per day.

If you want to listen to David Duke’s spirit animal, nobody can stop you but you.

Since then, other sites like Snopes have jumped on the figure to expose the hate-based lie. A search for it now will yield several more hits than when I first began down the Google rabbit hole.

Moreover, at least four recent studies have shown illegal immigration does not increase violent crime.

Now, you can read those studies, like the 2015 one by the Cato Institute, to verify their veracity and the scientific soundness of their methods. Or, if you don’t like the results, you can follow the president’s lead and simply dismiss hard numbers from a think tank (that for its first two years was called the Charles Koch Foundation because it was cofounded by Charles F–ing Koch) as “fake news.” You can hold King’s belief that immigrants are twice as likely to commit crime. That’s your right. If you want to listen to David Duke’s spirit animal, nobody can stop you but you.

Or maybe you believe the studies. Perhaps you know the claims offered by King are nothing more than feces from his anus that’s been gleefully swallowed by Mendoza, Ronnebeck, Trump, and God knows how many in this country since he first shat it out into the world a dozen years ago. Maybe you know it’s total bullshit but wonder why it’s such a big deal. After all, it’s just a lie. What’s the worst that can happen because of one lie?

Well, for starters, I’d say the Iraq War. Then again, I’m not absolutely sure it’s the absolutely worst thing to ever happen as the result of a single lie. I’m sure there are way more than 63,000 families (both American and Iraqi) who are better qualified to emphatically answer that question.

 

About Jeremy White

Jeremy White
Jeremy White is an engineer by education, but a smartass by birth. He managed to overcome the obstacles presented by his technical background, and has brilliantly devised a way to make a living making fun of people.

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