Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post ran a lengthy article labeling President Donald Trump racist if he bans menthol cigarettes, yet, Orwellianly, he’s also racist if he doesn’t. Post reporters Hannah Knowles and Laurie McGinley couldn’t get African-American leaders and consumers in their reporting to agree if menthol cigarettes should be banned, yet the Post unequivocally argued that because the Trump administration has taken action to reduce the availability of vaping, by default he must be racist since he hasn’t taken similar action against menthol, which is disproportionately favored by black consumers.

“As Trump tackles vapes, African Americans feel stung by inaction on menthol cigarettes,” Knowles and McGinley’s headline states.

“Trump’s unexpected assault on flavored e-cigarettes has resurrected a complicated, years-old debate over tobacco regulation, racial equity and health,” the Post reported. “Is the government wrongly ignoring another flavored nicotine product that poses particular dangers to African Americans? Or would it be discriminatory to ban a flavor so popular among blacks? Some black leaders say a ban on menthol cigarettes would be paternalistic, robbing African American smokers of their right to choose which products to use. Others, including many black health advocates, counter that it’s racist not to ban a dangerous product pushed for years by what they call predatory, racially targeted marketing.”

The mainstream media is quick to portray President Trump as a racist, yet the Post’s reporting showed many African-Americans, including MSNBC host Al Sharpton, opposing a menthol ban.

“During the debate over the 2009 tobacco-control law, the Congressional Black Caucus was split on the contentious issue of whether to ban menthol cigarettes, with some members arguing it was unfair to outlaw African American smokers’ product of choice,” the Post said. “Some lawmakers were also concerned about jeopardizing Philip Morris’ support for the bill. In the end, Congress exempted menthol and ordered the FDA to take a close look at the issue. Menthol cigarettes are still popular among African Americans, 47,000 of whom die every year of smoking-related causes … In New York City, a major battle looms over a bill that would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, pitting African American groups and health organizations against Al Sharpton and a civil rights group he founded, National Action Network. Sharpton argues that banning menthol cigarettes would harm African Americans by increasing encounters with police. He points to the case of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after a cop put him in a chokehold while arresting him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Recently, Garner’s mother also denounced the proposed ban … Smokers, too, have expressed fierce opposition to a menthol cigarette ban. NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment wrote council members that black customers will be ‘outraged at being targeted’ rather than thankful their favorite product is banned.”

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