An explosive new report confirms that Fox News Channel’s reckless fear-mongering led a man to attempt to murder staff at two San Francisco nonprofits in an attempt to “start a revolution.”
45-year old Byron Williams, incensed by a false conspiracy theory elevated by FNC’s Glenn Beck, aimed to murder 11 employees of ACLU of Northern California and the Tides Foundation. Police stopped Williams before he could reach his intended victims, and eventually subdued him after a 12 minute gun battle in which only two officers suffered minor injuries.
This horrific story could have had a far worse ending, and demonstrates the importance of everyday people standing up to Fox News’ dangerous influence. For more than a month now, ColorOfChange.org, CREDO Action, and other partners have spearheaded Turn Off Fox, a campaign aimed at reducing Fox News Channel’s influence by requesting that it not be shown on televisions in public spaces. We encourage you to join the effort, and to invite your friends and family to do so as well.
From the email outreach we sent to ColorOfChange.org members:
Dear ColorOfChange.org member,
Fox News has inspired at least one person to attempt mass murder — a new report released yesterday removes any doubt.1
Three months ago, a heavily armed man named Byron Williams was on his way to kill people at two non-profit organizations in San Francisco when he got into a gun battle with police before they eventually arrested him. Now, in an interview from jail, he’s just told us that Fox News’ Glenn Beck was a major inspiration:
“Beck will deny everything about violent approach, deny everything about conspiracies, but he’ll give you every reason to believe it. He’s protecting himself, and you can’t blame him for that. So, but I understand what he’s doing.”2
If you needed any more evidence that Fox News is dangerous, this is it. It’s time to do everything we can reduce Fox News’ influence and stop them from spreading divisive propaganda and inciting violence. More than 200,000 people have joined the Turn Off Fox campaign and are asking businesses and public places in their communities to stop playing Fox News. Will you join us?
Byron Williams came frighteningly close to killing people at offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco. He was stopped by police on the highway in Oakland just a few miles from his targets, and shot at them for about 12 minutes (injuring two of them but thankfully killing no one) before they finally could arrest him.3
While many Americans are aware of the ACLU, the Tides Foundation is an organization that most people had never heard of — until Glenn Beck started demonizing and spreading false information about them. Since Beck’s show premiered, he has pushed conspiracy theories involving Tides on nearly 30 episodes. During the same time period, Tides was never mentioned on other news channels. 4,5Williams survived the gunshots police used to bring him down — and now, he’s told us about his motives. According to an interview with Williams released by Media Matters this morning, he was driven by a bizarre and false conspiracy theory involving Tides Foundation that Glenn Beck pushed multiple times on his TV show.6
Click here to watch a video about Williams’ attempted killing spree (and its connection to Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories) — and to sign our petition calling on businesses and public places to stop playing Fox News:
Here are some more quotes from Byron Williams that show what he thought about Glenn Beck:
- “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there … It was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed, that blew my mind.”
- “Anything that you do is going to be considered promoting terror attacks or promoting violence. So now they’ve got Beck labeled as a guy that is trying to incite violence. And what I say is that if the truth incites violence, it means that we’ve been living too long in the lies.”7
Williams is the clearest example we have of someone who was motivated by Fox News to engage in political violence — but he’s part of a consistent pattern of violence from far-right extremists that was likely motivated at least in part by the hateful rhetoric and misinformation that’s commonplace on Fox News and in other far-right media. Many of those who have planned or carried out violence (including Byron Williams) held racist and anti-Semitic views and were angry at the fact that our country has a Black president.
- In April 2009, a white supremacist named Richard Poplawski shot and killed three police officers that were called to his house. Poplawski hated Jews and Black people, and believed in right-wing conspiracy theories that say the Obama administration is gearing up to take away peoples’ guns and institute a police state. Glenn Beck has consistently implied that the Obama administration is taking away our rights and moving us towards a fascist dictatorship or police state. Poplawski once posted a Youtube clip of Glenn Beck — in which he discussed a conspiracy theory about FEMA concentration camps — to the white supremacist website Stormfront.8
- In May 2009, abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in his church by an anti-abortion terrorist after being demonized for years by Fox’s Bill O’Reilly as “Tiller the Baby Killer.” O’Reilly had compared Tiller to the Nazis and to Al-Qaeda. He said that Tiller had “blood on his hands” and that he wouldn’t want to be Tiller “if there is a Judgement Day.”9
There’s a very real danger of political violence from the far-right — and Fox News fans the flames every day. It’s no longer a hypothetical question whether the conspiracy theories, bigotry, and violent rhetoric on Fox can lead to real-world violence. It’s already happened. Thankfully, police were able to stop Byron Williams before he committed a massacre. But we might not be so lucky with the next killer inspired by Glenn Beck and Fox News.
We can’t allow Fox News to stoke the kind of fear, division and hatred that leads to violence. It’s time to ask our friends, our neighbors, and our communities to turn off Fox. Please join us:
Thanks and Peace,
– James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Natasha, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team October 12th, 2010
1. “Progressive Hunter,” Media Matters, 10-11-10
3. “California Highway Gunman Byron Williams Aimed for ‘Revolution,’ Say Cops,” CBS News, 7-23-10
4. “Like Byron Williams, Beck frequently obsessed about Tides and Soros,” Media Matters, 10-11-10
5. “The CA cop shooter and Glenn Beck: Here’s what we know,” Media Matters, 7-23-10
6. See reference 1.
7. See reference 1.
8. “Richard Poplawski: The Making of a Lone Wolf,” Anti-Defamation League, 4-8-09
9. “O’Reilly’s campaign against murdered doctor,” Salon, 05-31-09
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats