It’s hard to exaggerate the praise heaped on Air Force Gen. Jay Silveria after his impassioned speech against racism went viral at the end of September.

Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, spoke after five black cadet candidates at the academy’s prep school found racial slurs written on message boards outside their rooms.

“If you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” an angry Silveria told students. When video of his speech hit the internet and then cable TV, and then the old-fashioned press, the applause began.

But in a few of the nation’s largest media outlets, the acclaim wasn’t just about Silveria. For some, celebrating Silveria was at least as much, if not more, about President Trump than it was about the Air Force general.

The Washington Post published an editorial headlined, “Moral guidance, if not from the president.”

On television, CNN took a leading role in lauding Silveria. Anchor Brooke Baldwin began a segment on the general by saying, “Some say the president’s rhetoric is divisive, not that of a commander-in-chief. Others will say that’s why they love him.”

Now, as everyone knows, there’s an update to the story. The cadet candidate who reported the racial slurs has admitted that he was behind the whole thing. It was all a hoax. The young man, who is black, has left the academy.

Anyone who follows such incidents, certainly anyone in the news business, should have known that there was a substantial chance the Air Force Academy vandalism was a fake. Too many such incidents have turned out to be hoaxes not to raise suspicions about new ones, pending the results of an investigation.

There was the young black man in Kansas who admitted writing racist graffiti on his car. There was the black man in Michigan charged in three racist graffiti incidents at Eastern Michigan University. There was the young Muslim woman in New York who admitted making up a story about being attacked by white Trump supporters. The black Bowling Green State University student who said white Trump supporters threw rocks at her. The University of Louisiana student who said a white man wearing a Trump hat tried to pull off her hijab.

Then there was the wave of stories about threats to Jewish community centers — stories that received widespread news coverage in the context of the new Trump presidency. Most of the threats were made by a teenager in Israel, with the others made by a former journalist who was somehow trying to get back at a former girlfriend.

None of that means that all hate crimes reports are false. But it does mean people reporting and commenting on them should be cautious until the facts are known.

Gen. Silveria chose not to be cautious.

Now, Silveria has chosen to double down on his message. “Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed,” Silveria said in a statement to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “You can never overemphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect — and those who don’t understand those concepts aren’t welcome here.”

There’s also a need for accuracy when the head of the Air Force Academy makes a high-profile statement that reaches millions of Americans.

Byron York is a nationally syndicated columnist.

(30) comments

David Schuler

Had Gen. Silveria chosen to wait 'until all the facts were in' before speaking out, he would have been instantly vilified by the media for being soft on racism. Then once the truth did come out, it would have been buried on page 99.
An interesting question is why the student chose to create the hoax in the first place? What did he hope to gain? Who was he trying to impress? Apparently no one is curious about that, and that fact in itself speaks volumes. .

Carlos Ponce

David wants to know "why the student chose to create the hoax in the first place?"

"Several sources say the cadet candidate, who hasn't been identified, committed the act in a bizarre bid to get out of trouble he faced at the school for other misconduct. The prep school offers a year of training for academy prospects who need academic help. The school is primarily used to fill athletic rosters for the academy's 37 NCAA teams."
http://gazette.com/air-force-academy-finds-cadet-candidate-responsible-for-racist-messages/article/1614770

Doyle Beard

wanting to be the victim seems to be the mindset of a lot of people now days.

Elizabeth Beeton

This has to be one of the dumbest political columns ever. Authorities can't wait to verify that every crime report isn't a hoax before responding. The infrequency of hoaxes doesn't justify it. Yet this columnist criticizes Air Force General Silveria for not having assumed that the bigoted messages in Academy dorms were a hoax before addressing them. This column essentially argues that authorities should treat racial allegations differently than other charges by investigating them all initially as hoaxes. Wow!


Carlos Ponce

Elizabeth, too many instances where RACISM was claimed but not true. Some ARE hoaxes. Too many claims where SEXUAL MISCONDUCT was claimed but not true. Remember Duke Lacross? Too many false claims reported divert attention from those that are real. All allegations should be treated the same. Seek the truth. Excuse me for sounding cynical but shouldn't TRUTH be ultimate goal of any allegation and resulting investigation?

Cary Semar

Well said.

Emile Pope

Exactly how many are too many? One? Two? You fail to mention that most claims are found to be true. What actually happens is that people use false claims of misconduct to divert the public from the claims that are actually true. And to imply that if a claim isn't proven to be true that it is false is totally inane. Some investigations are so slanted in favor of the accused that it is almost a foregone conclusion that the accusations will be dismissed. Perhaps you should focus more on the substantiated claims and less on the others.

Mark Aaron

Carlos: [ too many instances where RACISM was claimed but not true. Some ARE hoaxes. Too many claims where SEXUAL MISCONDUCT was claimed but not true.]

Hoaxes are not commonplace, Carlos. The vast majority are what they claim. You and York are using these rare cases as a strawman to divert and cover for Trump and Moore.

==> [Seek the truth. Excuse me for sounding cynical but shouldn't TRUTH be ultimate goal of any allegation and resulting investigation?]

That was not the problem being discussed.

Carlos Ponce

Too bad they're not "rare", Little Marky.

Emile Pope

They are extremely rare. More false accusations are made against minorities because they are more likely to be believed and they are always immediately acted upon. And when they are shown to be false the admission is usually never admitted and the victims never compensated. Concentrate on the true accusations and stop using the rare false ones to disregard all...

Mark Aaron

Carlos: [Too bad they're not "rare", Little Marky. ]

Far more rare than you or Byron York would pretend.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

_"In 2014, there were 6,418 hate crimes reported and 6,385 bias incidents, according to the FBI. Levin has closely studied the New York Police Department's hate crime division, finding that around 9 percent of crimes reported to detectives there are reclassified annually. While some of those may have been shifted to other departments or failed to meet the bar to become a hate crime, some are hoaxes, he says.

“Among the thousands of hate crimes every year, we have some hoaxes sprinkled in there,” he says. “We’ve had an increase in hate crimes in the United States, and hoaxes have routinely come up, but not in a way that impacts the overall trend and overwhelming majority of cases. Hate crime hoaxes are an extremely small, but nevertheless relevant category.”"_

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1215/Why-do-people-report-fake-hate-crimes

Carlos Ponce

9% is NOT rare, Little Marky.

Emile Pope

It didn't say that 9% of reported hate crimes were hoaxes.

Carlos Ponce

No one ever said you posted that, Emile. My post reads "9% is NOT rare, Little Marky."

Carlos Ponce

"...9 percent of crimes reported to detectives there are reclassified annually. While some of those may have been shifted to other departments or failed to meet the bar to become a hate crime, some are hoaxes..."
Shifted to other departments - no longer considered a hate crime, but still a crime.
Failed to meet the bar to become a hate crime - an incident was reported as a hate crime but upon investigation revealed it was not
hoax - someone fraudulently made up the whole thing
All the above were no longer considered "hate crimes" as originally reported.
9% is not considered rare.

Mark Aaron

Carlos: [ hoax - someone fraudulently made up the whole thing
All the above were no longer considered "hate crimes" as originally reported.
9% is not considered rare.]

Your red herring stinks Carlos. What the article says (not about reclassifications/red herrings) about hoaxes:

“Among the thousands of hate crimes every year, we have some hoaxes sprinkled in there,” he says. “We’ve had an increase in hate crimes in the United States, and hoaxes have routinely come up, but not in a way that impacts the overall trend and overwhelming majority of cases. Hate crime hoaxes are an extremely small, but nevertheless relevant category.”"_

Carlos Ponce

It is apparent Little Marky needs a reading lesson.

Mark Aaron

Carlos: [It is apparent Little Marky needs a reading lesson.]

So you are simply going to brazen out your lie Carlos? You have to do that a lot, don't you Carlos? Why is that?

Carlos Ponce

Not a lie.

Doyle Beard

I remember Obama and Hillarys response on Benghazi

Jarvis Buckley

E.B. You know I have supported you on almost every issue for over 10 years, but on this one Carlos is right.
Sorry.

Gary Scoggin

Having seen a similar situation at a plant I was once working in (not in this area), I think it calls for a swift and immediate condemnation by the person in charge. N the case I am thinking of, the plant manager made an immediate, clear declaration that this was not to be tolerated, all measures would be taken to find the perpetrators and that they would be gone from there forever. He knew he had to get in front of that issue, not just for moral reasons but for practical ones as well. Silveria was in the same boat. It’s fun to second guess somebody’s judgement, but in the crux of the moment you have to go with what you think is right.

Gary Miller

When the media reports an incident on the front page the correction when learned it was false should also be on the front page.

Doyle Beard

yes Gary but the media don't do that because that doesn't fit their agenda.

Doyle Beard

We now seem to be the country of guilty before proven guilty. Thanks news media for not making it clear to some people. All you want is headlines not fF

Doyle Beard

facts

Mark Aaron

Doyle: [facts]

You called?[beam]

Carlos Ponce

Witness the mass killings in Egypt yesterday. Many Americans think all Muslims practice the same faith. Yes and no. There are sectarian differences that sometimes lead to bloodshed. When a Muslim or Jew is targeted why does one assume it must be a "white supremacist"? Muslims can target other Muslims (of a different sect) and Jews. Is this a "hate crime"? Yes it is. But the background of the true culprits is not what crosses the average mind. By opening the door to Middle East refugees and unvetted relatives of those already here have we opened the door to more hate crimes? Everyone who enters this country should be properly vetted. If we cannot do that due to the instability of their home country then they should not be allowed until proper vetting can be done. White supremacists are bad but we cannot do anything to those native born until they've done something.

Emile Pope

Stop trying to change the subject because you lost the argument...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, I never lost the argument. And I did not change the subject. Or do you believe "hate crimes" only apply to African-Americans?
The FBI records hate crimes against one's race (including anti-White), sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and disabilities.

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