In September 2021, left-leaning websites and social media users shared what appeared to be screenshots of a tweet posted by former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. In it, she inadvertently highlighted a significant one-year rise in the U.S. murder rate during her ex-boss’ final year in office, President Donald Trump.
On Sept. 23, many Twitter users shared the screenshots with a considerable measure of schadenfreude. In them, McEnany appeared to be sharing a tweet by political reporter Lachlan Markay, which contained a bar chart showing year-on-year increases in the nationwide murder rate between 1960 and 2020. The chart showed a massive annual increase in the murder rate for 2020, and McEnany wrote, “The U.S. murder rate under Joe Biden”:
So McEnany appears to have been attempting to criticize U. S. President Joe Biden, who defeated Trump. But the effect of her tweet was actually to highlight the massive increase in the U.S. murder rate between 2019 and 2020 — the final year of Trump’s presidency.
The screenshots also formed the basis of reports by the left-leaning websites Mediaite and Joe My God.
Those screenshots were authentic, and we are issuing a rating of “Correct Attribution.” McEnany posted the tweet on Sept. 23 but then deleted it later that day. Dozens of Twitter users captured various screenshots of the tweet, which supports its authenticity, but most importantly, the website Polititweet.org, which tracks and archives tweets posted by various political figures, kept a record of it.
Clicking on the URL of the tweet (https://twitter.com/kayleighmcenany/status/1441021221341106176) demonstrates that it was once live, but “has been deleted”:
The bar chart that McEnany shared did not cover the period of Biden’s presidency, so it was wildly erroneous in that sense, but it also mistakenly referred to the “murder rate” under Joe Biden (i.e., in 2020). In fact, the chart showed the annual percentage change in the murder rate for various years through 2020.
Based on a New York Times analysis of FBI data, the chart showed a 29 percent increase in the murder rate, year on year, between 2019 and 2020. The murder rate is the number of murders that take place per 100,000 people in the overall population. Despite isolated spikes in 2015 and 2020, the overall trend in the U.S. murder rate has been one of steady decline since 1990, as was illustrated in another graph from the same Times article:
After deleting her erroneous reference to Biden’s presidency, McEnany later reframed her argument in a second tweet based on the same bar chart.
This time, she claimed that the large annual increase in the murder rate seen in 2020 was attributable to the “Defund the police” movement, a campaign — popular among some left-wing Democrats but opposed by Biden — to radically reform policing and shift budgets away from police departments, in favor of education, social services, and public health.
Asher, Jeff. “Murder Rose by Almost 30% in 2020. It’s Rising at a Slower Rate in 2021.” The New York Times, 22 Sept. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/22/upshot/murder-rise-2020.html.
“Does Joe Biden Support ‘Defunding’ Police?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/joe-biden-defund-police/. Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.
“Kayleigh McEnany Accidentally Slams Trump For Murder Rate.” Mediaite, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.mediaite.com/politics/kayleigh-mcenany-deletes-tweet-after-brutal-mockery-for-accidentally-slamming-trump/.
Tweet by @kayleighmcenany | PolitiTweet. https://polititweet.org/tweet?account=259001548&tweet=1441021221341106176. Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.