Trump is creating racist policy based on what Bill O'Reilly tells him


In a late-night tweet, Donald Trump commented that he may have to "send in the feds" to Chicago to stop the "carnage." His tweet mirrors the language Bill O'Reilly had just used on Fox News. Take that in: Trump is watching TV commentary that feeds into his racial biases, and suggesting policy on largely that basis alone.

The President of the United States apparently watches Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. During a segment about the homicide rate in Chicago, a guest specifically called the violence "carnage." Bill O'Reilly himself went on a long discussion about what the president could do to help, asking "can the feds go in and stop this?"

O'REILLY: And in the Impact Segment tonight, the violence in Chicago getting worse, if you can believe it. The first 23 days of this year, 42 homicides in the Windy City, up 24 percent from last year. An unbelievable 228 people have been shot in Chicago in 23 days. While campaigning last July, Donald Trump said this:

TRUMP (CLIP): In the President's hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 people have been the victim of shootings this year alone. The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end.

O'REILLY: The question is, can President Trump override local Illinois and Chicago authorities, and stop the murder? Joining us now from Washington, Horace Cooper, an attorney who specializes in federal law. So, can he go in? And Cook County is where Chicago is located. Everybody says the same thing: Gun crimes are not prosecuted aggressively, the sentences are way too low, the gang thing is getting worse, the mayor of Chicago has no clue, the governor of Illinois doesn't want to do anything about it. So can the feds go in and stop this?

HORACE COOPER: Well, absolutely, the feds can do this. And as you’ve pointed out, there has been a wholesale failure on the part of the state and local community to address this really serious problem. I don’t know another word besides carnage to describe the devastation that’s been taking place.

So Trump did what Trump does: He took to Twitter to air his thoughts — thoughts which blatantly echoed the O'Reilly segment:

Trump's obsession with the media, and what the media say about him in particular, is well-documented. And it is also well-known that he enjoys and watches Fox News. During the campaign, he frequently called in to several shows on the channel throughout the day. Moreover, just before his tweet about Chicago, Trump tweeted praise of Fox's coverage of his inauguration, working in a snide hit on CNN:

It is deeply troubling that the President of the United States is apparently garnering his policy ideas — and tweeting about them — from right-wing news commentary on television. And it is even more troubling when he uses his Twitter account to threaten a federal takeover of a major U.S. city.

It is also notable that this happened with a story about Chicago, where nearly a third of the population is Black. For Trump's white audience, the portrait he has previously painted of an inner city "where you get shot walking down the street" feeds directly into racist narratives about the inherent danger of majority Black neighborhoods, and the need to militarize the response to crime occurring within them.

During the campaign, Chicago was the only place where a campaign rally was canceled for fear of violence. Never mind that his rallies in other cities frequently featured violence inside the bounds of the actual rally, often encouraged from the stage by Trump himself. It was Chicago that was "too violent" for him.

That late-night tweet was likely a test case: Trump repeating O'Reilly's doom-saying statistics put the policy ideas out there. And now we are discussing a possible federal takeover of an American city of over 2.7 million people.

None of this is normal, and none of this is accidental. Trump is watching news that feeds into his racial biases, and suggesting that he may create dangerous, frightening policy on largely that basis alone. Fox News appears to have extraordinary power over the new president — and that should scare all of us.