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Has Drudge Become More Race-Baity? Here Are the Numbers.

Late last month, the Drudge Report posted an incendiary, if characteristic, headline: “88-year-old WWII vet beaten to death by two black teens.”

The headline linked to a local news story from Washington State. The original piece’s headline read similarly: “WWII vet, beaten by teens outside Eagles Lodge, dies.”

The one wee difference: Race. Drudge’s headline featured it. The KXLY-TV story that drew Drudge’s attention did not. The physical appearance of the attackers only appeared low in the story, in connection with the manhunt for the alleged attackers. “Spokane police are looking for two male suspects in the attack,” the report said. “They said the suspects are African Americans between 16 and 19 years old.”

In so doing, the station hewed to the standards of most newsrooms. The Associated Press Stylebook says journalists should mention a person’s race only in cases in which police are seeking a criminal suspect or when race is clearly relevant to the story. The rule specifically addresses crime stories: “The race of a person convicted of a crime is not pertinent unless the case has racial overtones; if it does, the overtones should be explained.”

It’s pretty well known, though, that Drudge operates under a different set of reportorial rules. And if you listen to Drudge’s liberal critics, it’s a set of rules that, in the years since Barack Obama became president, has involved an increasingly noxious focus on race. More friendly outlets like the Daily Caller have in turn defended their fellow conservative, noting that Bill Maher had to go “all the way back to the month of April for his examples” for a summertime rant against Drudge’s purported racism.

But while it certainly seems true that, in the words of Salon’s Alex Pareene, “Drudge has seriously stepped up his ‘scary black people’ coverage” since Obama’s election, is that something that can actually be quantified? In fact, yes: The handy Drudge Report Archives has taken a snapshot of the site’s home page every two minutes since 2001. We turned to the archives to count the frequency of race-related search terms in Drudge’s headlines before and after 2008.

Here’s how we did it: We used simple Boolean search queries—looking for words, words near other words, and so on. We weeded out unrelated stories (references to “black-and-white film,” for example) and disregarded duplicate or slightly altered headlines, but we counted stories for every time they turned up in different results. The results were striking: Drudge headlines featuring a variety of terms linked to race appeared more frequently after 2008, when Barack Obama’s presidential campaign kicked into full gear.

Perhaps this emphasis on race just reflects an increased interest in the subject on the part the American public. Plenty of the headlines, after all, are faithful recasts of the headlines from the original sources: Drudge’s “’White Union’ Claims Black-on-White Crime Problem,” for example, leads to a story from Baltimore’s CBS website under the headline “White Student Union Claims Towson Has Black-on-White Crime Problem.” But other Drudge headlines seem a bit iffier. “N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER” leads to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Django Unchained: Film Review.” But we’ll leave the question of why Drudge picks these stories to Drudge himself, and leave the speculating about the contents of his heart to others.  

Here’s what our study found:

TERM: “Black” NEAR “Teens” 1
EXAMPLE: “Pack Of Violent Black, Hispanic Teens Attack 4 White Men Outside Denver Mall…
LINK GOES TO: “Motive Unclear In Attack By Group Of Teens On 16th Street Mall,” CBS, Denver September 15, 2011.
USES SINCE 2008: 11
TERM: “Black” NEAR “Crime”
EXAMPLE: “...Consider charging black girls with racist hate crime
LINK GOES TO:  “’Everyone sat there and watched me get hurt’: Victim of McDonald’s beating speaks out as fast-food giant goes into damage control,The Daily Mail, April 24, 2011.
USES SINCE 2008: 4
TERM: “Black” NEAR “Police”
EXAMPLE: “Black church stages fight to see how white police officer responds; Police officer injured…
LINK GOES TO: “Police: Officer Baited In Altercation That Injured Him,” RTV6, Indianapolis, August 3, 2010.
USES SINCE 2008: 9
TERM: “Racist
EXAMPLE: “Racist tweets: ‘90% of white people are nasty. #HATE THEM’
LINK GOES TO: “Chilling 911 call details final moments of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane’s life,” The Advertiser, Australia, August 22, 2013.
USES SINCE 2008: 119
USES BEFORE 2008: 60
TERM: “Racism
EXAMPLE: “LEGO accused of racism with ‘STAR WARS’ set…
LINK GOES TO: “Lego accused of racism with Star Wars set,” The Telegraph, January 23, 2013.
USES SINCE 2008: 63
USES BEFORE 2008: 20
TERM: “Racial
EXAMPLE: “MC Hammer Claims Racial Profiling Led To Arrest…
LINK GOES TO: “Dublin Police Offer Details On Arrest Of MC Hammer,” KCBS, San Francisco Bay Area, February 25, 2013.
USES SINCE 2008: 92
USES BEFORE 2008: 31
TERM: “Black Panthers
EXAMPLE: “New Black Panthers: Time to shed some blood…
LINK GOES TO: “New Black Panthers: Race War For Trayvon April 9th Day of Action,” Breitbart, April 8, 2012.
USES SINCE 2008: 12
TERM: “Ghetto
EXAMPLE: “NAACP Fumes Over ‘Avoid Ghetto’ App…‘Can You Imagine Not Being Able To Go To MLK Blvd?’
LINK GOES TO: “App That Would Guide Users Away From High-Crime Areas Proves Controversial,” CBS, Dallas/Fort Worth, January 17, 2012.
USES SINCE 2008: 8
TERM: “N*gger2
EXAMPLE: “FLASHBACK: SPIKE LEE: ‘Why is it that ‘n*gger’ is all right, but you get into a Jewish slur and all the sudden you’re antisemitic?’”
LINK GOES TO: “Spike Lee, Holding Court,” The Washington Post, May 1, 1998
USES SINCE 2008: 8
TERM: “Race-bait” or “Race-baiting”
EXAMPLE: “CLAIM: Media ‘coordinating on race baiting’
LINK GOES TO: “Is The Media Coordinating on Race Baiting? Ask John Harris and Politico,” RedState, April 29, 2012.
USES SINCE 2008: 5
TERM: “Minority
EXAMPLE: “Commerce Dept. considers labeling Arab Americans ‘disadvantaged minority’…
LINK GOES TO: The link redirects to “Commerce considers labeling Arab Americans a disadvantaged minority,” The Hill, May 29, 2012.
USES SINCE 2008: 37
USES BEFORE 2008: 32
TERM: “Affirmative action
EXAMPLE: “PAPER: Sotomayor once described herself as ‘product of affirmative action’…”
LINK GOES TO: “Videotaped remarks shed light on Sotomayor,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 11, 2009.
USES SINCE 2008: 9
TERM: “Discrimination
EXAMPLE: “HOLDER: ‘Growing number’ of citizens face voter discrimination
LINK GOES TO: “Martin Luther King Jr. cited by Eric Holder on voting issues,” Politico, January 16, 2012.
USES SINCE 2008: 28
USES BEFORE 2008: 22
  1. In this Boolean search, “near” means within ten words.
  2. For the most part, Drudge avoided this term until a controversial December 2012 headline about Django Unchained. It generated enough uproar that he used the term in ten headline variations over the next 24 hours.