CRRJ Reality Checks Breitbart on “Fake News”

A reality check on claims of vintage ‘fake news’

It was the perfect story for Breitbart’s audience.

Journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently discovered that a local black man long believed to have been lynched in 1899 was instead tried, convicted of second-degree murder, imprisoned and eventually released. Breitbart — “the platform for the alt-right,” according to former chairman and current Donald Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon — picked up the Post-Gazette’s report over the weekend.

This is how Breitbart’s version begins:

The tale of the lynching of a black man in Pittsburgh back in 1899 has been used for decades to illustrate how bad the area was for minorities. But new research into the incident found that the story is a 117-year-old example of “fake news,” as it appears this famous “lynching” never actually occurred.

The subtext, for white readers: Just look at this bogus account of a lynching; it never actually occurred — and if this story wasn’t true, it’s probably fair to question any similar story. The true injustice is the guilt-tripping of contemporary white people by the media, academics and activists for stuff that happened a long time ago — or not at all.

As framed by Breitbart, the Post-Gazette’s report is a comforting revelation for white readers who feel attacked by those dreaded social justice warriors. But here is a reality check, courtesy of Margaret A. Burnham, founder of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University: “It is far more common to uncover lynchings that made no list and were undisclosed.”

The above text is an excerpt of the article by Callum Borchers, published in the Washington Post on January 5, 2017. Read the complete story at

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