On Wednesday, the world woke to a scene that is all too familiar in America: A black man, Alton Sterling, was shot and killed by the police (an alarm tragically repeated again on Thursday). A cellphone video shows Sterling pinned to the ground beneath two police officers when he is shot several times at point-blank range.
Protesters immediately gathered outside the convenience store where Sterling was killed. Outrage has mounted online; his death has been called a murder, an assassination, and a lynching. The Department of Justice announced that they would open a civil rights investigation into the case.
Fox News, meanwhile, invited on Mark Fuhrman, who first came to national attention when he was exposed as a blatant racist during the O.J. Simpson trial. Fuhrman argued that Sterling deserved his death.
Mark Fuhrman on #kellyfile: Man in deadly police shooting failed to comply with verbal commands given by police.
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) July 7, 2016
“So they go there, and when you watch the escalation of force, first they verbalized, and he failed to comply with the verbal commands,” Fuhrman said. “They actually de-escalated the force that they could have used by tackling and then trying to grapple with the suspect.”
“Now, this man has to take responsibility that he did have a gun, and he conducted himself in some manner to draw attention to a citizen who called the police. And after that, the one officer, if this is the way it went down, one officer shot, one officer didn’t. When you hear, ‘He’s got a gun,’ if the other officer now uses deadly force, it’s because he believes that that gun is in the hand or is attempting to be put in the hand of the suspect.”
According to reports, a gun was retrieved from inside Sterling’s pocket. Video of the “altercation,” as the official police account called it, from two angles does not appear to show Sterling with a gun anywhere near his hands. Sterling reportedly started carrying a gun after a friend was mugged; Louisiana is an open carry state. The video also shows that the escalation from the police’s commands to violence happened within a matter of seconds.
Fox’s Mark Fuhrman Says Alton Sterling “Has To Take Responsibility” For His Own Death At Hands Of…Edit descriptionmediamatters.orgMegyn Kelly introduced Furhman as a “former LAPD homicide detective.” Fuhrman’s history, however, is far more complicated than that. He was one of the detectives who investigated the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and his documented history of overt racism — and his perjury on the stand about that racism — is one of the primary reasons Simpson was acquitted.
In the 1995 trial, Fuhrman said on the stand at least four times that he hadn’t used a racial epithet to describe black people in the past decade. In response, the defense played a tape-recorded interview between Fuhrman and screenwriter Laura McKinney in which Fuhrman said “nigger” at least 40 times, along with a slew of racist stereotypes.
Another woman testified that Fuhrman called interracial marriage “disgusting” and said that he had told her “if I had my way I’d gather — all the niggers would be gathered together and burned.” In testimony ruled inadmissible, she also relayed that Fuhrman had said he kicked and beat black suspects to relieve tension.
In other testimony — relayed to the judge but not the jury — McKinney reveals records of Furhman spewing a whole host of racial epithets and stereotypes, saying he’s “pissed” at his partner because his partner follows the rules — “This job is not rules. This is a feeling. Fuck the rules; we’ll make them up later” — and advocating for officers shooting to kill and “shooting people in the back.”
Fuhrman has argued that his comments were taken out of context. He was convicted for perjury in 1996 and sentenced to three years of probation and a fine.
“It is important to understand that, as a result of these charges, this plea and this sentence, Mark Fuhrman is now a convicted felon and will forever be branded a liar,” California Attorney General Dan Lungren said at the time. “He is also now the ultimate impeachable witness — a convicted perjurer.”
Now, 20 years later, he’s a frequent guest on Fox News after incidents of racially-tinged police violence.
In 2015, Fuhrman defended the school officer who dragged and threw a high school girl across the room, arguing that the officer used “a minimal amount of force necessary to effect an arrest.”
When video emerged of the LAPD beating a black man in a “Rodney King-esque” incident, Fuhrman went on Sean Hannity’s show to excuse the officers’ behavior, arguing he didn’t know “what is going on with the verbalization,” and that it was inappropriate to criticize the LAPD.
After the death of Michael Brown, Fuhrman went on Kelly’s show to insist that he had “visualized” the events, and therefore knew that Wilson had legitimately feared for his life, almost lost consciousness, and was physically inferior Brown, who you just had to “look at” to know was a threat. In reality, the two men were of a similar height and weight, and images of Wilson show him with only a bruise.
In blaming Sterling for his own death, Fuhrman therefore falls into a familiar pattern. He’s a reliable mouthpiece excusing police brutality and racism. Giving Fuhrman a platform and a veneer of respectability despite his widely-documented history of racism, however, is more than just one isolated, objectionable guest choice by a major cable news network.
The ideas that Fuhrman parrots again and again — that those who die by police bullets are nearly always criminal, non-compliant, and thus deserve what they get — mimic a master narrative that creates a culture deadly to black Americans. Perpetuating this narrative is a convenient alternative to actually addressing the problem of police violence. It is essential to explaining away systematic police brutality against black men. And it makes it more likely that Americans will soon wake up to another Alton Sterling.