POLITICS
02/07/2017 08:23 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2017

Trump Repeats Huge Lie About The U.S. Murder Rate

The president claimed the national murder rate is at a 47-year high. Wrong!

President Donald Trump revived his thoroughly debunked lie about U.S. crime on Tuesday, claiming the national murder rate is nearing a 50-year high.

“The murder rate is the highest it’s been in ... 45 to 47 years,” Trump told a White House gathering of county sheriffs from across the country. “I used to say that in a speech and everybody was surprised, because the press doesn’t tell it like it is.”

Trump has repeatedly claimed crime is worse than the reality. During the campaign, he frequently said crime is out of control. Since his election, he’s said the murder rate is the highest in 45 years. Last month, he falsely said Philadelphia’s murder rate had increased when it actually declined.

Recent FBI data shows the U.S. murder rate near its lowest in decades, with 5 homicides per 100,000 people in 2015. (Data for 2016 hasn’t been released.)

A 2011 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which analyzes FBI crime data, shows the U.S. murder rate peaked in 1980 at 10.2 homicides per 100,000, dipping to 7.9 per 100,000 in 1984, and rising again in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The homicide rate hit 9.3 per 100,000 in 1994, before plummeting to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s new false statement in an interview Tuesday on CNN.

“I think he is relying upon data, perhaps for a particular area,” Conway told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I don’t know who gave him that data.”

The White House did not immediately return requests for additional comment.

It’s possible Trump is confusing the overall murder rate with the percentage increase from 2014 to 2015. The 2015 rate showed the biggest one-year jump since 1971, roughly 11 percent. Rising violence in 10 major cities, including Chicago, Houston and Washington, accounted for one-third of the 2015 gain.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the murder rate jumped 14 percent in the 30 largest U.S. cities from 2015 to 2016, with Chicago accounting for 44 percent of the increase. The jump doesn’t indicate a national crime wave, according to experts.

“While there were 471 more murders in large cities in 2015 than 2014, more than half (260) of that increase occurred in just three cities: Baltimore, Washington and Chicago,” the Brennan Center’s Ames Grawert and James Cullen wrote in March. “Until we have more information, then, warnings of a ‘new nationwide crime wave’ are premature by several years and more than a few percentage points.”

Trump has frequently pointed to Chicago violence in recent appearances. Last month, the president tweeted he would “send in the Feds” if “carnage” in the city didn’t decrease.

In Tuesday’s session with sheriffs, Trump spoke of “so sad a situation” in Chicago. He hasn’t detailed any plans to allocate more federal resources for stomping out crime in the city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would welcome help. “Send more FBI, DEA, ATF agents,” Emanuel said during a news conference last week. “We don’t have to talk about it anymore. Just send them.”

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated 1960 as the U.S. murder rate peak. It was 1980.

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