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Conservatives Repeat False Claim That Phoenix Is ‘Kidnapping Capital of the World’

Andrea Nill: Mike Huckabee defended SB-1070, telling Greta Van Susteren that Arizona was perfectly justified in passing the draconian immigration law partly because the state is the “number one kidnapping capital in the world.”

Late last week, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) defended SB-1070, telling On the Record host Greta Van Susteren that Arizona was perfectly justified in passing the draconian immigration law partly because the state is the “number one kidnapping capital in the world.” Huckabee isn’t the first person to echo the baseless claim — it is a regular talking point of Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Following in the steps of conservative fear mongerers, Huckabee proceeded to portray Arizona as a place where violence is out of control:

headless brewer

Well, the absurdity of all of this is that the Justice Department is suing the state of Arizona because the state of Arizona is trying to do what the Department of Justice and the federal government has refused to do, and that’s seal, secure and protect the doggone borders! People in Arizona were just frustrated. They’re the number one kidnapping capital in the world (SIC). They’ve seen people murdered who were simply trying to take care of their farms and families. And in exasperation because of the complete ineptness of this federal government, they took action.

Watch Huckabee and others:

Politifact recently looked into the “kidnapping capital” claim, given its recent popularity amongst proponents of SB-1070. On their truth-o-meter, the “fact” is classified as “false.” Politifact explains that ABC News originally reported on Feb. 11, 2009 that “Phoenix, Arizona, has become the kidnapping capital of America, with more incidents than any other city in the world outside of Mexico City and over 370 cases last year alone.”

The majority of victims were reported as being “either illegal aliens or connected to the drug trade.” However, Politifact found a big “hitch”: neither ABC News nor anyone else who has repeated the claim has indicated how the kidnapping ranking was reached. And though the number of kidnappings that have occurred in Phoenix since 2008 have been specified, no one has said how many kidnappings were reported in other cities. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol could confirm the claim.

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Finally, Politifact got some answers from an overseas kidnapping operations consultant at ASI Global, a “company that coaches clients through kidnappings.” Kidnapping expert Daniel Johnson told Politifact that from his experience, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Nigeria and the Philippines have the highest rate of kidnappings. A vice-president of tactical intelligence for Stratfor, a global intelligence company, took a much more definitive stance: “According to our analysts, there is no way that Phoenix is the No. 2 city in the world for kidnapping and there are significantly more kidnappings in many other cities throughout Latin America,” he said. “San Salvador, Guatemala City, Bogota as well as several cities in Mexico certainly have higher kidnapping rates than Phoenix.”

Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a public information officer at the Phoenix Police Department, also noted that Arizona kidnappings have actually decreased since the 2009 story broke. “We’ll reconsider our rating if compelling evidence surfaces,” wrote Politifact, “but for now McCain’s statement is False.”

The kidnapping capital talking point is just one example of the many false claims that proponents of SB-1070 have been promoting. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) erroneously claimed that the majority of undocumented immigrants “are coming here and they’re bringing drugs” during a primary election debate on June 15th. She also stated on Fox News that SB-1070 is a “good bill” that’s necessary because of the “drugs, and the kidnappings, and the extortion, and the beheadings.”

andrea nill

Andrea Christina Nill

In response, Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post today that “Jan Brewer has lost her head.” Milbank asserted “there’s not a follicle of evidence to support Brewer’s claim” — or many of the other “tall tales” that conservatives are propagating. Violent crime along the U.S.-Mexico border has actually consistently dropped over the past few years and there has been no evidence of beheadings.

Andrea Christina Nill

Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.