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Florida Democrat asks FBI to investigate anti-Semitic, racist disinformation

Florida Democrat asks FBI to investigate anti-Semitic, racist disinformation
© Greg Nash

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellHouse Democrats target Hispanic voters in battlegrounds with new barrage of ads Disinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election Florida Democrat asks FBI to investigate anti-Semitic, racist disinformation MORE (D-Fla.) on Wednesday asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate the origin of a series of social media posts and mainstream media publications in South Florida with anti-Semitic and racist messages.

Mucarsel-Powell, who was joined by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroFormer DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz: Latinos 'need to lead ourselves' Overnight Defense: Trump says he's leaving Walter Reed, 'feeling really good' after COVID-19 treatment | White House coronavirus outbreak grows | Dems expand probe into Pompeo speeches House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo's political speeches MORE (D-Texas) in her letter, expressed concern about a surge in "false or misleading information" on social media among Latino circles in the region but pointed her worries toward mainstream media pickups of that information.

"While disinformation on social media is, itself, problematic, even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida," wrote Mucarsel-Powell.

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Mucarsel-Powell, the first U.S. representative born in South America, used as examples a paid program on a widely heard Hispanic radio station and an insert in the Miami Herald's Spanish language version, El Nuevo Herald, both of which caused a stir with their overtly racist and anti-Semitic content.

"On August 22, 2020, for example, South Florida station Radio Caracol played 16 minutes of programming containing an anti-Black and anti-Semitic rant that claimed a victory by candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE would mean that the U.S. would fall into a dictatorship led by 'Jews and Blacks,'" wrote Mucarsel-Powell.

The Nuevo Herald insert, published on Sept. 11, was the latest in a series called Libre that had been running since January.

The offending content included comparisons of Black Lives Matter protests and Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi pogrom that consolidated Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic power structure.

"What kind of people are these Jews? They're always talking about the Holocaust but have they forgotten about Kristallnacht, when the Nazi goons tore through Jewish commerces throughout Germany? BLM and Antifa are doing the same, but the Nazis didn't steal, they only destroyed," wrote Roberto Luque Escalona in the insert.

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The rising tone of conspiracy theories in Hispanic media in Florida in part plays on pre-existing fears in a community that includes many people who've escaped oppressive dictatorships in their birth countries.

But the rhetoric also has elements of modern American conspiracy theories, including accusations of pederasty commonly spouted by followers of QAnon.

And Mucarsel-Powell in her letter warned that Russian election interference could also be at play.

"The FBI has recognized, as has the intelligence community at-large, that malign Russian actors are working to interfere with our 2020 elections, along with other hostile foreign nations," wrote Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell asked Wray to initiate an investigation and to provide a briefing by Oct. 7.

"As the FBI works to secure our elections, we urge you to keep the Latino community in mind and consider efforts of foreign actors to spread disinformation and sow doubt in our election systems among Latinos, especially in South Florida," she wrote.