The following letter, penned by Brittan Heller, director of the ADL's Center for Technology and Society, and Susan Benesch, executive director of the Dangerous Speech Project, appeared in The New York Times in response to President Trump's speech to the F.B.I. National Academy.
To the Editor:
Re “Deceit and Confusion in Talk on Law and Order” (Fact Check, Dec. 16): Addressing elite F.B.I. National Academy graduates last week, President Trump utterly mischaracterized the diversity immigration visa program and described people who use it to immigrate legally to our country as “the worst of the worst.”
As experts on hateful speech, we know that such words matter. Tarring whole groups of people as terrible and threatening is dangerous rhetoric that is all too familiar from societies where it has been a precursor to violence.
In addition, the president is now attacking legal immigrants with the sort of vitriol he previously aimed at the undocumented. He is training Americans to fear and despise other people simply because they are “them” and not “us.”
Language that can inspire violent hatred is all the more disturbing in a speech to local law enforcement officers who serve across the country. We must call it out for what it is.