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- The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that helps elect Republicans to Congress, claimed in a TV ad that Democratic U.S. House candidate Hillary Scholten “dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters” in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s death in May 2020 became violent.
- The fund bases this claim on a Facebook post the day after the riot by Scholten in which she voices support for a post made by another elected official who does not specifically denounce the damage and violence but says it will take longer to fix “broken systems” and achieve racial justice.
- That same day, Scholten posted her own statement on Facebook saying that although Floyd’s death was a “grave injustice,” the violence in Grand Rapids would make the community’s efforts to rebuild even harder. She specifically asked protesters to remain peaceful and “not resort to violence and destruction.”
Last week, a political action committee that works to elect Republicans to Congress claimed that a west Michigan Democrat running for a U.S. House seat "dismissed" the damage that took place in Grand Rapids in May 2020 following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and "praised" the rioters.
The candidate, Hillary Scholten, did neither.
The Congressional Leadership Fund last week began airing a TV ad targeting Scholten. In that ad, the fund referred to unrest and damage that occurred in Grand Rapids in late May 2020, more than two years before, in protests against police brutality.
The protest in Grand Rapids began peacefully then became violent. On May 30, 2020, demonstrators broke windows, damaged businesses and set fire to seven police cars and some government buildings. Some reports estimated the costs from damage and police overtime at more than $2.4 million.
In the ad, the fund shows footage of fires and destruction and claims that on the day after the protest, May 31, 2020, Scholten "dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters" in a post on her Facebook page, a claim Scholten’s campaign disputes.
CLF bases claim on Scholten’s support for another Facebook post
Shortly after the ad aired, Scholten’s campaign issued a statement noting that, on the day in question, she posted on Facebook that Floyd’s death was a "grave injustice" and supported efforts to "elevate the cause of racial justice." But she also said "that work cannot be accomplished by harming even more innocent people."
"Our community will struggle to rebuild from the ongoing crisis brought on by the coronavirus, and last night’s destruction will make that even more difficult," that post continued. "People can and should continue to speak out for George and all victims of violence. I'm pleading with those who take to the streets to make that effort peaceful and to not resort to violence and destruction."
In defending its ad, however, the Congressional Leadership Fund pointed to another Scholten post, from that same day. In that one, she referenced a Facebook post by state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, in which Brinks began, "Broken glass will be swept up today. Broken windows will be replaced in a matter of days." Brinks went on to say that fixing "broken systems" and achieving racial justice would be a far more difficult task.
The post did not directly address the demonstrators’ culpability or denounce the violence.
In her post, referring to Brinks’ post, Scholten thanked Brinks for her "wise words" and added that she, Scholten, was "praying for peace and working for justice."
Scholten voiced her support for Brinks’ statement, which some people could read as downplaying the violence in Grand Rapids.
But to use that solely as the basis for a claim that Scholten "dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters" is incorrect. At no point in any of these posts did Scholten directly do either. And the Congressional Leadership Fund has offered no additional proof of the claim. It cherry-picks her words of support for one statement that does not denounce the violence while her own statement, posted the same day, does, specifically urging protesters "to not resort to violence and destruction." To cite one and not the other leaves out context that was clearly available to the fund more than two years after the posts were made.
We rate this claim False
Congressional Leadership Fund Ad: Vote Against Hillary Scholten: She Stood with Rioters, Not Us. aired Sept. 9, 2022
Detroit Free Press: Protesters in Grand Rapids set fire to cars, government offices; dispersed with tear gas. published May 31, 2020
WZZM-13: Riot costs approach $2.4 million; Grand Rapids police account for half the tab. published June 10, 2020
Hillary Scholten’s Facebook post: "George Floyd’s death is a grave injustice." accessed Sept. 12, 2022
Hillary Scholten’s Facebook post: "As the sun sets on our dear city again tonight." accessed Sept. 12, 2022
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