Accuracy in Media

Earlier this year, the mainstream media ran a story that 2016 Trump rallies led to a spike in hate crimes in the areas in which they were held.
Specifically, a study claimed that there was a 226 percent increase in counties which hosted rallies for then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
The study, entitled, “The Trump Effect: How 2016 Campaign Rallies Explain Spikes in Hate,” was submitted by Ayal Feinberg, assistant professor at Texas A&M University ya Commerce, and professors Regina Branton and Valerie Martinez-Ebers at the University of North Texas.
The study tracked hate crime reports from the Anti-Defamation League in counties that hosted 300 Trump rallies from 2015-2016. But, before the study went through the academic peer-review process, the mainstream media picked the story and ran with it.
CNN, the Washington Post and Vox published stories on the study at the time, claiming that Trump’s words led to a wave of hate crimes. However, two graduate students debunked the study by replicating the methodology.
In Reason magazine, Matthew Lilley and Brian Wheaton analyzed the study’s results regarding Trump rallies and compared it to data they collected on Hillary Clinton’s rallies during the same time period. The results confirmed that Trump rallies led to an increase in hate crimes, but that Hillary Clinton’s rallies had “an even greater increase in hate incidents than Trump rallies.”
They found that the results were simple: The more population a county has, there is a greater number of hate crime incidents when compared to a less-populous county with fewer hate crime incidents.
But no mainstream media outlet published an update or rebuttal to their earlier pieces that trumpeted the Trump rally-hate crime study. The media did not do its due diligence either in catching the population disparity, which led to the high percentage cited in the study.
Instead, the misinformation continues to spread and made its way into political rhetoric in the 2020 presidential campaign cycle, with multiple Democratic Party politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) condemning the president by citing the debunked study.

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