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Letter to The Wall Street Journal Responding to Inaccurate Column on Hate Crime Statistics

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The following letter was submitted to The Wall Street Journal in response to "Hate Crime Hoaxes Are More Common Than You Think" (June 26, 2019). This appeared in the Journal's print editions on July 11, 2019.

To the Editor:

Jason Riley’s suggestion that false hate crimes are being amplified by civil-rights organizations and others who “have a vested interest in exaggerating racial tensions” is deeply offensive and flat-out wrong (“Hate Crime Hoaxes Are More Common Than You Think,” Upward Mobility, June 26). This argument is the ultimate red herring when one considers the documented rising number of bias-motivated crimes in America and their toll on individual victims and entire communities.

Mr. Riley quotes from a study that claims to have identified 400 fake hate crimes between 2010 and 2017. Even if we accepted that as true, during that same period the FBI reported almost 50,000 hate crimes. In its latest annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report, the FBI reported 7,175 hate crimes in 2017—a 17% jump from 2016. There was a notable 37% spike in crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions (data was collected before the tragic, hate-motivated white-supremacist shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif.). Overall, 28% of reported hate crimes were committed against African-Americans, who remain among the most vulnerable and targeted groups. And these staggering numbers are clearly incomplete. According to our analysis, more than 90 cities with populations exceeding 100,000 people either did not report any hate-crime data to the FBI or reported zero hate crimes.

Bias crimes are message crimes. They are intended to intimidate the victim and the victim’s entire community, leaving them feeling fearful, isolated and vulnerable. The Jussie Smollett case could have a detrimental impact on those actual victims of bias crimes who seek justice in the future.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO and National Director
Anti-Defamation League