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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 27, 2021

Fact-checking whether Verizon promotes defunding police and the notion that US is racist

If Your Time is short

  • Verizon has hosted forums on race and social justice. In one session, a speaker called for reducing police funding and another addressed the effects of historical racism in America. 

  • Verizon said that the program provided an opportunity for conversations about race and that it does not support defunding the police.

A TikTok video makes a two-part attack on the telecommunications company Verizon, hitting on the polarizing issues of defunding the police and racism.

The poster of the video wrote: "You go woke you go broke! Just cancelled my Verizon account!" Below that text is a headline copied from a Fox Business article that read: 

"Verizon promotes defunding the police and idea that America is fundamentally racist: report."

The article is based on a blog post by Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist who opposes critical race theory

TikTok identified videos with this message as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)

A similar claim was made on another website and that headline was shared on Facebook. 

Verizon sponsors a "Race & Social Justice Action" program for employees that includes sessions with guest speakers.

Verizon says that the aim of the program is to discuss racism and promote change, and that the company does not support defunding the police.

A description of the program on Verizon’s website says: "The thoughts and beliefs expressed by the speakers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Verizon."

In one session, a speaker advocated for a form of police defunding, and in another session a speaker spoke about the continuing effects of racism in America, dating back to slavery.

Defunding the police

The defund the police movement gained prominence in the days after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, triggering protests across the country against police violence. Some protesters called for eliminating police departments entirely, while others wanted to revisit the functions of police departments and reroute some of their funding toward other services. 

Rufo cited comments by Adrian Burrell at a Verizon session on criminal justice reform in July 2020. Burrell describes himself as a storyteller who examines race. The other speakers were an advocate for youth justice and sentencing reform and an appellate criminal defense attorney.

Rufo’s blog post accurately quotes Burrell calling for more police resources to be diverted to community groups. Here is a fuller account of what Burrell said, according to a recording of the session:

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"I just think that at this point, I feel like the system is broken and I feel like over-policing doesn’t work. And I feel like those same resources that are aimed towards hiring police and having people come in contact with people with racist biases and all these different things, they need to be aimed at just bringing more resources to the community at a root level, and then you just won’t need so many police. And if you want to call that ‘abolishing the police,’ or if you want to call that ‘defunding the police,’ so be it. But I think really, we just need the resources to be aimed more at benefiting the community, not at hiring more police and giving them militarized equipment."

America "fundamentally racist"

Rufo also cited a Verizon program in August 2020 in which the speaker was Khalil Muhammad, a professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard.

Rufo’s blog post said Muhammad argued that America is fundamentally racist; that the Founding Fathers built a slave economy; and that it produced the economic incentives that prevail today, with corporations "exploiting poor people in low-income communities" in a similar way to the slaveowners. 

Here is a fuller account of what Muhammad said on those points, according to a recording of the session:

  • Muhammad recalled Floyd’s murder and contrasted it and other killings of Black people with tragic accidental deaths. He said: "What we have here are systems of racism that were built intentionally a long time ago that have been the focus of reform and attention time and time again."

  • Muhammad said, "There’s no founding American wealth without the experience of enslaved Africans as the wealth generators for this nation. ... Any business person should ask themselves, ‘Where did the capital come from to generate the value of America in the very beginning?’"

  • The Founding Fathers, he said, "had a very difficult time extracting themselves from the economic incentives that this early version of global capitalism produced for them. If we told that story, then we’d have an easier way of understanding why business people today have a hard time changing business practices, even when they know that they are exploiting poor people in low-income communities."

Muhammad spoke at another Verizon session on dismantling systemic racism in February 2021.

Verizon’s response

Verizon responded to Rufo’s blog post with a statement saying any suggestion that Verizon supports defunding the police "is completely false and absolutely absurd."

The Verizon sessions included speakers "representing many different perspectives, including both the civil rights community and law enforcement," the statement said. "Our goal was to host open, and sometimes difficult, conversations about race and the issues facing the United States. Guest speakers were free to express their personal opinions, but none of those opinions necessarily reflected the views of Verizon nor were endorsed by us. Verizon is committed to racial equality and equity. We also firmly believe that fair and effective law enforcement is essential to a free society. There is no incompatibility between these views."

We asked Verizon for materials showing that the sessions included people with different perspectives, including law enforcement. A spokesperson referred us to the company’s statement.

Our ruling

A TikTok video claimed: "Verizon promotes defunding the police and (the) idea that America is fundamentally racist."

Verizon presented a program on race to employees that included one speaker who spoke in favor of some level of defunding the police, and a speaker who discussed what he said are the ongoing effects of racism in America dating back to slavery.

Verizon said the program provides for conversations about race, and the speakers’ views do not necessarily reflect its own. The company denied that it promotes defunding the police.

We rate the claim in the video Mostly False.

Our Sources

TikTok, post, Aug. 26, 2021

Fox Business, "Verizon promotes defunding the police and idea America is fundamentally racist: report," Aug. 26, 2021, "Critical Race Capitalism," Aug. 25, 2021

Email, Verizon spokesperson Rich Young, Sept. 23, 2021

Verizon, statement, Sept. 3 2021

Verizon, "Don’t miss the premiere of #Next20," July 7, 2020

Verizon, "Race & Social Justice Action Toolkit," accessed Sept. 24, 2021

Verizon, "#Next20: 'There is no American history without Black people's contributions to it,’" Aug. 4, 2020

Verizon, "#Next20: American History 101 for Black History Month," Feb. 10, 2021

UpToSpeedPodcast, Verizon’s "#Next20: American History 101 - Part 1," Aug. 4, 2020

UpToSpeedPodcast, Verizon’s "#Next20: Criminal Justice Reform," (11:30) July 8, 2020

PolitiFact, "What is critical race theory, and why are conservatives blocking it?", May 24, 2021

PolitiFact, "‘Defund the police’ movement: What do activists mean by that?", June 9, 2020

American Military News, "Verizon promotes ‘defund the police,’ calls US racist in ‘antiracist’ program says report," Aug. 27, 2021

Facebook, post, Aug. 27, 2021

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