Fox News anchor and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared to use racist tropes to mock demonstrators who took to the street in New York City in recent days to protest the killing of Jordan Neely, a Black homeless man who was choked to death by a white former Marine.
On Friday, after showing a clip of activists chanting, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now” and other slogans to the beat of a drum, Ms McEnany cracked a smile and said, “Well, at least they have rhythm,” eliciting laughs from her cohosts.
The Fox anchor also condemned people who have “already made up their minds” about the killing, in which 24-year-old Daniel J Penny was filmed choking Neely for an estimated 15 minutes.
Kat Abughazaleh, an analyst at watchdog group Media Matters for America, said Ms McEnany’s rhetoric “mocks Black people protesting the killing of Jordan Neely.”
The Independent has contacted Fox News for comment.
Neely’s death, ruled a homicide by city officials, occurred on 2 May on the F train in Manhattan.
Witnesses said Neely, a 30-year-old known for impersonating Michael Jackson, came onto the train and complained out loud about being hungry, tired, and thirsty, before throwing his jacket on the floor.
The killing has sparked a heated conversation in the city, with critics arguing local officials and the media alike have callously blamed Neely for his own death at the hands of a vigilante.
“Jordan Neely’s death was a homicide, and charges must be immediately brought against his killer,” the city’s elected public advocate Jumaane Williams said in a statement shared with The Independent. “To say anything else is an equivocation that will only further a narrative that devalues the life of a Black, homeless man with mental health challenges and encourages an attitude of dehumanization of New Yorkers in greatest need.”
Mr Williams said elected officials and media tropes created an environment “that encourages fear of and violence against people who are struggling, that paints them as a threat to public safety.”
Following Neely’s killing, The New York Post described Neely as “unhinged” and a “vagrant,” while The Federalist thanked the “brave men” who “saved riders”. On Fox News host Greg Gutfeld blamed Neely’s death on Democratic lawmakers and George Floyd, a Black man who was choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.
New York mayor Eric Adams has come in for criticism as well.
After Neely’s homicide, Mr Adams said “there’s a lot we don’t know about what happened here, so I’m going to refrain from commenting further,” before adding, “however, we do know that there were serious mental health issues at play here.”
Following the comments, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Jordan Neely was murdered. But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges. It’s disgusting”.