The Dangers Of Learning How To Conduct Research From Glenn Beck

Yesterday, Glenn Beck announced that he and David Barton will be personally leading several “specialized training” sessions this summer aimed at teaching select groups of college-age students how to conduct accurate research, which is rather ironic, given that both he and Barton have long histories of spreading misinformation.

In fact, the danger of relying on Beck to teach students how to ascertain facts was put on display on his radio program yesterday, when he falsely declared that “between 2008 and 2014, 40 percent of all murder convictions in Florida were committed by criminal illegal aliens.”

While ranting against sanctuary cities, Beck presented this figure as fact, adding that the figure was 34 percent for New York and 17.8 percent for Arizona. Overall, he said, illegal aliens accounted for 38 percent of all the murder convictions in those three states, plus California and Texas, despite being less than 6 percent of the population.

These figures, it turns out, came directly out of a piece written by former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a rabidly anti-immigrant right-wing activist, that was published on Breitbart back in 2015:

Let’s look at a few numbers. You haven’t seen them in the New York Times, Atlanta Constitution, or the Miami Herald, nor have they been featured on NBC Nightly news or CNN. So, the average American is blissfully unaware of them.

  • Between 2008 and 2014, 40% of all murder convictions in Florida were criminal aliens. In New York it was 34% and Arizona 17.8%.
  • During those years, criminal aliens accounted for 38% of all murder convictions in the five states of California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York, while illegal aliens constitute only 5.6% of the total population in those states.
  • That 38% represents 7,085 murders out of the total of 18,643.

That 5.6% figure for the average illegal alien population in those five states comes from US Census estimates.

Tancredo’s piece was debunked in 2015 by PunditFact, which noted that the numbers he used had been taken from a presentation put out by the right-wing group The Center for Security Policy. PunditFact discovered that not only were CSP’s figures inaccurate but, to make matters worse, Tancredo “quoted the whole thing incorrectly.”

The first thing that jumped out was Tancredo mangled the dates.

He said “criminal aliens” accounted for 38 percent of murder convictions in five states between 2008 and 2014.

In fact, the presentation offered numbers for 2005 to 2008.

That’s not the only issue. The presentation’s author, James Simpson, told us he had emailed Breitbart about Tancredo’s use of his presentation. “(Tancredo) quoted the whole thing incorrectly,” Simpson told PunditFact.

Our research found that even if Tancredo had quoted the presentation as it was given, there would still be plenty of concern about its accuracy.

Tancredo said that between 2008 and 2014, over one-third of the murder convictions in Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas were committed by illegal immigrants. The man who presented the data Tancredo cites said Tancredo “quoted the whole thing incorrectly.”

Tancredo used the wrong time period. He thought the baseline number was homicide convictions when it was actually all homicides. Most important of all, he took the presentation he relied on at face value and ignored the hard numbers available from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

And while Tancredo might not have known it, the researcher whose work he used himself has questions about the underlying data he used. We have hard data from Texas that refutes the big and estimated numbers Tancredo used. Undocumented immigrants do commit murder, but perhaps only one-fifth as often as Tancredo said.

We rate the claim False.

Tancredo’s claims were debunked nearly two years ago, yet Beck is still blindly repeating them on his radio program, apparently unwilling to do basic research to determine if what he is saying on the air is accurate or true.

This should probably concern those students who are selected to receive “specialized teaching and instruction” this summer from the likes of Beck and Barton, as it is hard to be confident that they are going to learn how to conduct accurate research from an instructor who appears unable to do a simple Google search.