MSNBC, CNN, and other major media outlets have largely ignored false claims by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) that Michael Brown was "murdered" by a white policeman in 2014.
Brown, a black 18-year-old, was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri, by Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson claimed it was in self-defense, but protests and some eyewitness claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. This led to the mantra, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." This was later revealed to be false, due to physical evidence and supporting testimony backing Wilson's version of events that Brown attacked him.
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However, on the five-year anniversary of Brown's death, the 2020 Democratic hopefuls used the occasion to say Wilson murdered Brown, despite Wilson not being indicted for a crime and the Obama administration's Justice Department concluding after an extensive investigation that Wilson didn't break any federal law.
"Five years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri," Warren tweeted on Friday. "Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on."
Wrote Harris: "Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system."
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 9, 2019
Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 9, 2019
An IQ Media search found no mentions of "Michael Brown" at any time on MSNBC and CNN following Warren and Harris's tweets on Friday afternoon, except for Al Sharpton's coverage of the anniversary of Brown's death on his weekend program PoliticsNation. However, he didn't delve into Warren and Harris's tweets.
Sharpton traveled to Ferguson in the aftermath of Brown's death, spoke at his funeral, led protests calling for police reform, and claimed there was no evidence Brown posed a threat to Wilson's life. In a heated interview with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly in 2016, Sharpton defended his rhetoric about the case and said witnesses had told him different things than what federal investigators concluded.
He also referred to Brown's death as a "murder" in a tweet.
I closed out #PoliticsNation talking about the 5 year mark of the murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MI, the murder of Eric Garner in NY, and the continued pursuit of justice in this country. pic.twitter.com/gDavDQQMsY
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) August 10, 2019
National media outlets also largely ignored the story. A search showed the last story from the New York Times about Brown came on Friday with a piece about his father calling for a new investigation. The Washington Post waited until Tuesday, publishing a Fact-Check that gave Warren and Harris Four Pinocchios for their claim.
Vox, the liberal explainer site, posted an article Monday about Warren and Harris that noted the evidence contradicted what Harris and Warren wrote.
"But the Justice Department’s 2015 report contradicted many of the protesters’ claims, finding that Wilson likely did have reason to fear for his life and didn’t violate the law in shooting Brown. The Warren and Harris campaigns did not return requests for comment," reporter German Lopez wrote.
However, the claim Brown was the victim of murder drew coverage and some sharp criticism from conservative media. National Review‘s David French said the politicians unequivocally lied.
"They flat-out spread fiction, libeled an innocent man, and stoked American divisions — all for political gain," he wrote.
The Fox News morning show Fox & Friends covered Warren's tweet on Monday. Jeff Roorda, a former Democratic state lawmaker and police officer, ripped her for clinging to a "false narrative" and said her comments were "deeply offensive to every police officer in America."
Several other 2020 presidential candidates didn't refer to Brown's death as murder, but they strongly suggested his death was an example of racial injustice.
5 years ago, Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. His body lay on the street for hours before he was treated with humanity. I have been thinking all day about Mike and his family, and my prayers are with them.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 9, 2019
5 years ago, a Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.
He shot him 6 times.
Nothing will bring Michael back, but we can't stop fighting the injustice done to his family and so many others—and until we do better, we're failing them.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 9, 2019
Like Eric Garner, Michael Brown should be here today.
My city knows the pain of Ferguson all too well — and what we've learned has fundamentally changed us. There’s more to do and we’ll be at it awhile, but our mission is clear: NO ONE should die due to the color of their skin.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) August 9, 2019
Five years ago, Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer. In the years since, we’ve heard too many names, too many similar stories, to count. In each, we are reminded of an idea as urgent, and as ignored, today as it was when Michael was killed: Black Lives Matter.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 9, 2019
Michael Brown should be alive today. Five years after his death, we must finally end police violence against people of color. pic.twitter.com/EWvLcdyla5
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 9, 2019
UPDATE: 9:19 A.M.: The Washington Post posted a Fact-Check of Warren and Harris early Tuesday morning, so this article has been updated to show the Post has reported on the issue.
UPDATED: 9:44 A.M.: This article was updated to show Sharpton also referred to Brown's death as a "murder."