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Former Vice President Joe Biden

Photo by stingrayschuller licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

President Donald Trump's media allies are distorting a quote from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in order to falsely claim that Biden called police "the enemy." The lie followed a now well-trod path from Trump's campaign to his propagandists in Fox News prime time.

Biden has called for police reform following the brutal killing of George Floyd by officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While describing some of his campaign's proposals during an interview with progressive activist Ady Barkan published by NowThis News on Wednesday morning, Biden highlighted the problem of police militarization and how it impacts public perceptions of law enforcement.

The Defense Department has provided more than $5 billion in free surplus military equipment to local law enforcement since 1996, including at least $760 million after the Trump administration lifted restrictions implemented by President Barack Obama, according to a CNN analysis. Public outcry in response to police usage of military-style equipment against protesters has led to a bipartisan push in Congress to reform or end that program.

In his interview with Barkan, Biden pointed out that providing military armaments to police forces damages their credibility with the communities they serve, who come to view them as "the enemy" rather than as their protectors.

"Surplus military equipment for law enforcement -- they don't need that," Biden said. "The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood, it's like the military invading. They don't know anybody. They become the enemy. They're supposed to be protecting these people."

Trump's campaign swiftly tweeted out a clip from the interview, falsely claiming that Biden had said "police have 'BECOME THE ENEMY.'"

The campaign sent out a press release using the same false frame, while several of its top staffers amplified the clumsy lie on Twitter.

The Trump campaign effectively served as the assignment editor for a host of right-wing media outlets., Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Infowars, Washington Examiner, PJ Media, Real Clear Politics, and Townhall all published stories focusing on the same Biden comment over the next few hours (some did provide the full context of his remark).

By the evening, the smear had spread to Fox.

"Joe Biden says the police are 'the enemy,'" Lou Dobbs lied at the top of a segment on his Fox Business show. "Those are his words, 'the enemy.'"

Dobbs then read what he said was a quote from Biden's interview. But he skipped Biden's remark that "the last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood, it's like the military invading. They don't know anybody." And he inserted a word in order to support the Trump campaign's false interpretation. When Dobbs purported to read Biden's comment, he changed "they become the enemy" -- Biden's reference to how police are perceived in their communities -- to "they have become the enemy" (emphasis added)

A few hours later, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that Biden had called police "the enemy" at least four times over the course of his Fox prime-time show. As is fitting for a Fox host/Trump operative, the Trump campaign subsequently tweeted a clip of one of the attacks.

And Laura Ingraham's show also referenced the remark, with Fox contributor Raymond Arroyo falsely claiming that Biden "is calling police the enemy here."

This sort of bad-faith deception will continue through the election as the president's partisan media allies try to find some attack that will stick to Biden, who currently enjoys a sizable lead.

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