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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-PowellTrump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread The Memo: Democrats see warning signs beyond 2020 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 CastroState Department establishes chief officer in charge of diversity Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout DC bureau chief for The Intercept: Impeachment managers became 'like the dog who caught the car' when permitted to call witnesses 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 BidenThe West needs a more collaborative approach to Taiwan Abbott's medical advisers were not all consulted before he lifted Texas mask mandate House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act 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.