O’Reilly’s Non-Existent Arizona Immigrant Crime Wave

Fox host Bill O’Reilly searched around for a reason to support Arizona’s harsh new immigration law, and seemed to settle on the fact that there is a crime wave in Phoenix (5/3/10):

Arizona had to do something. In the capital city Phoenix, crime is totally out of control. For example, last year New York City– with six times as many residents as Phoenix–had just 16,000 more reported crimes. San Diego is the same size as Phoenix. It has 60 percent less crime.

There are only three small problems with this explanation.

For one, there’s no evidence that immigrants are liable to commit more crimes than anyone else; in fact, most research suggests it’s exactly the opposite. So the link between a law to arrest more undocumented immigrants and crime is hard to fathom.

The crime rate in Phoenix has been dropping— so it’s not “out of control” at all.

And O’Reilly’s statistical sleight of hand is the other problem. New York City has 16,000 more crimes than Phoenix, but is six times larger. Well, what does that prove? If O’Reilly were trying to make any senseat all, he’d be talking aboutper capita crime rates. But making comparisons between cities based on theFBI’s crime data is something they explicitly warn people not to do:

Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.

And it might be worth mentioning that one of O’Reilly’s pointshere wasto attack the “flat-out dishonest” media coverage of the Arizona law.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.