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Lies, Conservatives and Statistics: Crime Waves, Lie Waves

WorldNetDaily and the ConWeb embrace a congressman's unreliable numbers about crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/5/2007

We've seen how the ConWeb embraces statistics -- no matter how dubious or inaccurate they are -- when they support the ConWeb's view of things such as media bias and global warming. We've also seen the anti-immigration (not just illegal immigration) bent of the ConWeb, to the point of embracing racist- and eugenicist-inspired immigration restrictions.

Put them together, and you have a recipe for some serious misinformation and demonization -- and another example of the ConWeb repeating numbers that sound good regardless of their accuracy.

A Nov. 28, 2006, WND article, written by WND editor Joseph Farah himself, claimed that more Americans "were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began." He then, oddly, immediately wonders in so many words whether that's even true:

Though no federal statistics are kept on murders or any other crimes committed by illegal aliens, a number of groups have produced estimates based on data collected from prisons, news reports and independent research.

Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.


While King reports 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens, he says 13 are killed by drunk illegal alien drivers – for another annual death toll of 4,745. That's 23,725 since Sept. 11, 2001.

While no one – in or out of government – tracks all U.S. accidents caused by illegal aliens, the statistical and anecdotal evidence suggests many of last year's 42,636 road deaths involved illegal aliens.

(Farah originally misidentified Steve King as Rep. Peter King of New York, which appeared briefly on the WND website but has since been corrected.)

Interestingly, the press release from King to which the article links doesn't even reference the death-toll claim. Though he cast some doubt on King's claim, Farah made no apparent effort to investigate or verify his figures, apparently content to repeat an inflammatory claim because it sounds good.

In fact, King's numbers are highly suspect. As Colorado Media Matters detailed, King has cited as support for his claim a GAO study purportedly claiming that 28 percent of all U.S. prison inmates are "criminal aliens." King claims to have "extrapolated" his death toll from that number.

But King's claim that 28 percent of prison inmates are "criminal aliens" is itself questionable. Statistics from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and has found no support for his assertion; according to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens."

Farah's comparison of the alleged deaths due to illegal immigrants -- numbers he essentially admits lack solid statistical evidence to back them up -- to the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is similarly misleading. The soldiers' deaths are taken from a much smaller population -- roughly 200,000 U.S. personnel on duty there, vs. drunk-driving deaths out of roughly 300 million Americans -- so the soldiers' death rate is much higher than even Farah's alarmist numbers on illegals.

It may be "accurate" that King made claims using these numbers, but it doesn't mean the numbers themselves are accurate. Farah's reliance on unverified numbers forwarded by those with an anti-immigration agenda makes his entire article suspect. (Ironically, the day before this article appeared, Farah was claiming that the reporting "everything" WND has covered "was fair, honest, truthful, balanced and accurate.")

Even conservative blogs such as Captain's Quarters ridiculed King's and WND's numbers: "[T]he numbers demonstrate rather clearly that King and WND are talking out of their hats. Of all the people arrested for murders in 2005 (10,083), only 4,955 were white/Hispanic, and that includes all arrests in that racial category. In order to believe King and WND, every single one of these people would have to be illegal aliens." The blog added:

Asinine hardly begins to describe this report. Conservative decry junk science; bad statistics are just as bad. It took me all of 10 minutes to check this data, something that Rep. King apparently couldn’t bother to have his staff do, and a standard fact check that [World Net Daily] declined to perform. It seems that some people will believe almost anything as long as it can be used to demonize illegal aliens.

You'd think that Farah's casting a little doubt on King's numbers -- even as he was mindlessly spouting them -- would send up a red flag on WND's further use of them.

Naaah -- the numbers are too good to ignore, even if they're not true. WND repeated them as fact the very next day, though with a similar caveat (and a similar lack of interest in verifying them).

But the caveat disappeared in a Jan. 3 article naming the purported "wave of murders and other crimes by illegal aliens" No. 2 on WND's of "underreported stories of the last year." The article flatly stated that "WND reported that more Americans were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began" -- treating as fact something it had suggested a month earlier wasn't even verified.

The amorphous claim, taken from that original WND article, that "many of last year's 42,636 road deaths involved illegal aliens," anchors a list WND is keeping -- not unlike its creepily prurient list of female (and only female) teachers who have sex with their students, a longtime WND obsession -- of "illegal immigrants who have not only ignored U.S. immigration laws, but state laws against drinking and driving as well, killing innocents on the highways in the process." Of course, WND hasn't bothered to add any actual hard numbers to bolster its argument -- probably because there aren't any.

The bogus meme then spread to WND's less discerning columnists. A May 22 column by Janet Folger -- no stranger to twisting facts -- repeated King's numbers to claim that "many of those illegals keep breaking the law once they get here."

Mychal Massie -- who, like, Folger, has a problem with careless rhetoric -- meanwhile, put his own spin on things in his Aug. 14 column: notes: "Since illegal aliens are unlikely to be committing white-collar crimes, that figure likely underestimates the amount of violent crime committed by illegal aliens." Using said report, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, pointed out that 25 Americans are killed by illegals every day (about evenly split between motor vehicle accidents and outright murder). That's more than 9,000 murdered a year, or about 36,000 in the past four years. That is roughly 10 times more than the total number of Americans killed in Iraq. 

This, unsurprisingly, gave Massie a excuse to rant against illegal immigrants, claiming that "liberal Democrats and Republicans ... view illegal aliens that are breaking our laws, potentially undermining elections, bleeding the middle-class dry, raping and murdering as just the model citizenry we need more of" and railing against "innocent, clean living black students" who are "brutally assaulted and murdered, by animalistic, illegal aliens."

But WND wasn't the only ConWeb outlet to regurgitate King's faulty numbers without checking the facts.

A Jan. 19 article by Randy Hall (reprinted at NewsMax) stated: "Crime statistics relating to illegal immigrants are hazy, but on his website, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) says that 12 homicides and 13 drunk driving deaths a day are attributed to illegal aliens." Hall, like Farah, made no attempt to verify King's numbers.

And E. Ralph Hostetter -- already noted for his xenophobic attitude toward immigrants -- repeated them in his Aug. 15 NewsMax column: "It has been widely reported and disputed by some that at least 25 violent crimes per day, including murder, negligent homicide, and rape (especially of children) are being committed by illegal aliens." Following the ConWeb pattern, Hostetter makes no effort to dig further into why the numbers are "disputed by some."

It bears repeating: If the numbers make their case, the ConWeb doesn't care if they're accurate. Is that any way to run a "news" organization?

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