The number of hate groups in the United States reached near-historic highs in 2016, rising for the second straight year, with the amount of anti-Muslim hate groups tripling from 2015, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual Year in Hate report released Wednesday.
Much of the increased hate, the report noted, could be attributed to the rhetoric and fear-mongering espoused by President Donald Trump during his presidential campaign.
“Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country,” wrote Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and author of the report. “He kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80 percent of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.”
According to the SPLC report, the number of hate groups rose to 917 in 2016 — up from 892 in 2015 — and just shy of the all-time record set in 2011. But “by far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups,” which tripled from 34 organizations in 2015, to 101 in 2016.
“But that explosion was not unexpected,” Potok wrote. “Anti-Muslim hate has been expanding rapidly for more than two years now, driven by radical Islamist attacks including the June mass murder of 49 people at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub, the unrelenting propaganda of a growing circle of well-paid ideologues, and the incendiary rhetoric of Trump — his threats to ban Muslim immigration, mandate a registry of Muslims in America, and more.”
Despite those figures, the SPLC says the overall number of hate groups “likely understates the real level of organized hatred in America, as a growing number of extremists operate mainly online and are not formally affiliated with hate groups.”
And together with the rise in the number of hate groups, there has been a noted increase in the number of hate crimes targeting Muslims, Potok said. The latest FBI statistics show that hate crimes against Muslims grew by 67 percent in 2015, an increase far greater than in any other major category of hate crimes. Anti-Jewish hate crimes increased by 9 percent during that same time period, anti-Black hate crimes were up by almost 8 percent and anti-LGBT hate crimes rose by roughly 5 percent.
Still, according to the SPLC, the actual number of hate crimes is far larger than what is reported in the FBI statistics. The organization cites “a variety of technical reasons, including the failure of many people to report hate crimes to police,” for the discrepancy. The SPLC says “a number of recent government studies shows that the real level of hate crimes in America has been nearly 260,000 a year in recent years. That works out to 25 to 40 times higher than the FBI numbers.”
Further evidence of Trump’s contribution to the rise in hate was the widespread display of hate in his name following his victory:
“In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, a wave of hate crimes and lesser hate incidents swept the country — 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days, according to a count by the SPLC. The hate was clearly tied directly to Trump’s victory. The highest count came on the first day after the election, with the numbers diminishing steadily after that. And more than a third of the incidents directly referenced either Trump, his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan, or his infamous remarks about grabbing women by the genitals.”
During a joint news conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, Trump was asked by a reporter to comment on the recent increase in anti-Semitic and racist incidents in the U.S.
“I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had, 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220, you know that, right? There was no way to 221. Then they said there’s no way to 270. There was tremendous enthusiasm out there,” Trump said, as reporters appeared baffled at his response.
The president did eventually address the question, saying broadly that “we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on,” adding, “As far as people, Jewish people — so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different (sic) United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. … You’re going to see a lot of love.”