House Republicans push false claims about Democrats and movement to defund police

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Very few of the Democrats they cited actually endorsed the idea.

House Republicans are accusing several of their Democratic colleagues of trying to defund local police as crime rates show some increases across the country. But few of the examples they are citing are actually endorsements of the Defund the Police movement.

"With crime rates on the rise in cities that cut police funding, Democrats are now falsely claiming that they were never behind this wrong & dangerous effort," Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) tweeted on Tuesday.

He shared a video — released Friday by the Republican Study Committee, the largest Republican ideological caucus in Congress — that he claimed, "does a great job highlighting the Democrats’ hypocrisy."

In recent days, several of McHenry's GOP colleagues have also circulated the same video as alleged proof that defunding the police is a Democratic priority.

"Say it louder for the people in the back!" wrote Florida Rep. Kat Cammack. "Defend. Not defund."

"Oh the web the Dems weave!" said Alabama Rep. Jerry Carl. "Democrats Push to Defund the Police."

"I will stand with the law enforcement officers in our communities even as Democrats in Congress attempts to defund them," wrote Florida Rep. Brian Mast.

But while the Republican Study Committee's video and accompanying press release shows a few Democratic members — mostly members of the six-member progressive "squad" — urging cuts for police funding, many of the examples are simply other House Democrats pushing for police reform or for a rethinking of immigration enforcement.

One was a July 2020 tweet from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) urging cutting off funds to "Trump's secret police that are currently in Portland and may arrive uninvited in other American cities." This was a reference to former President Donald Trump's sending allegedly unidentified federal troops and customs officials to detain protestors in Portland, Oregon.

Another was a tweet that same month from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioning whether local police departments "need weapons of war" such as grenade launchers and weaponized drones.

Others included 2018 tweets from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-OR) calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, a June 2020 tweet from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) saying that police departments that are "violating people's civil rights" should not receive federal funding, and an August 2020 tweet from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) criticizing a Wisconsin police officer for shooting an unarmed black man in the back.

The video even included a June 2020 tweet from Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) noting that a House Judiciary Committee hearing would "address the reforms needed to hold police accountable, fight systemic racism, and save lives."

None of those were actually examples of calls to defund local police.

Perhaps most misleadingly, it showed a screenshot of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the caption "Speaker Pelosi on calls to defund police."

The image came from a June 2020 MSNBC interview in which Pelosi expressly said police funding was a local matter and that House Democrats were "not going to that place," but wanted to "change policy to make our policing more just."

Republicans have tried to claim — without evidence — that a push by some cities and activists to cut police funds is the reason for a surge in gun violence and homicides.

But murders have been increasing over the past year in both Democratic-run communities — like Houston and Nashville, Tennessee, which have increased their police budgets — and GOP-led cities, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fresno, California.

Criminologists say many factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, economic unrest, and mental health are the root causes.

The GOP also spent much of the 2020 campaign falsely saying President Joe Biden wanted to defund the police — an idea he had explicitly rejected.

In recent weeks, Democrats have turned the tables, calling out GOP lawmakers for claiming to "back the Blue" but voting against the American Rescue Plan and other federal laws that provided actual funding increases for local law enforcement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.