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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-PowellStephanie Murphy won't run for Senate seat in Florida next year Hispanic Democrats slam four Republicans over Jan. 6 vote in new ads Colombia's protests are threat, test for US 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 CastroTexas walkout sets up epic battle over voting rights Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department USAID 'redirects' El Salvador funds from government to civil society 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 BidenChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Poll: Majority back blanket student loan forgiveness 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.