Earlier this week, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks on the United States that they are claiming the media “didn’t cover” as a rationale for President Trump’s Executive Order “travel ban” and the administrations’ doubling down on how his actions are keeping us safe from the large threat of terrorist attacks on US soil.
Press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that the list demonstrated “the reason the president is acting in so many of the ways he has, with executive order and otherwise” — connecting the president’s claims to the legal battle over his order banning people from predominately Muslim countries from traveling to our country. “And I think what we need to do is to remind people that the Earth is a very dangerous place these days,” he said.
Is this accurate? We’ll look at two aspects of these White House claims: 1) that we’re at high risk for terror attacks on American soil, and 2) that the media doesn’t cover these attacks.
Also, quick sidebar, it’s worth pointing out that the list is hilariously riddled with simple spelling errors:
OK, so on to the fact check…
Beyond the fact that this administration is full of people that can read and write about as well as the President:
Are we at risk?
Of course the earth is a dangerous place, and of course we’re always at some risk of being attacked, but are we really at the level of risk this administration claims we are? Not even close.
► Most of the incidents were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists, with only 11 involving a demonstrated connection to the seven banned nations.
► Only 10 of the incidents happened on U.S. soil.
► While some of the incidents involved dozens of deaths, 38 had no fatalities.
► Three of the incidents aren’t even properly classified as terrorist incidents, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. They include an attack by a French national who killed his British backpacking companion in Australia after she rejected his advances.
To equate that last one with the risk of attacks on American soil is not only false, it’s dangerously stupid.
Also, even though the list was compiled after the White House began claiming these attacks weren’t receiving the media coverage they should, it included several high profile, much covered attacks like ones in San Bernardino, Orland, Brussels and Paris.
Does the media cover these attacks?
USA Today explains why this fact check is necessary:
The latest controversy began at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Monday, when Trump addressed the military command at the forefront of the war on terror. “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that,” he said.
Asked to explain those remarks Tuesday, Trump turned the subject to the coverage of him.
“I happen to know, because I’m reported on possibly more than anybody in the world. I don’t think you’ll say anything about that,” he said. “I understand the total dishonesty of the media better than anybody and I let people know it. I mean, the media is a very, very dishonest arm and we’ll see what happens.”
USA Today, for their part, found over 200 stories about the attacks on the list. The ones that weren’t covered involved very few fatalities or injuries.
NBC News echoed that, finding they had reported on 57 of the 78 attacks, and those included the deaths of nearly 800 people. “By contrast,” the network reported, “the 21 attacks NBC News did not cover were smaller incidents in places like Egypt, Bosnia or Bangladesh, resulting in the deaths of just eight people, total.”
So, both claims, while the first is slightly more subjective, are false. The list released by the White House does not suggest we are at a greater level of risk to be attacked, and the media has provided ample coverage of the significant incidents on the list (the ones that are real, anyway..unlike the Bowling Green massacre).