The number of incidents involving hate crimes increased for a third straight year in 2017, the FBI reported in charts and data released Tuesday, a trend that House Democrats have been clamoring to examine for months as they prepare for hearings on the issue when they take back the House on Jan. 3.
Hate crime incidents rose by 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. From 2015 to 2016, the FBI reported a 5 percent increase.
Most of the 7,175 cases in 2017 involved race-based bias, though there were at least 1,564 cases that involved bias against certain religions and 1,130 in which people were targeted for their sexual orientation.
Of the 4,131 cases of anti-racial hate crime incidents, roughly half targeted blacks, by far the most of any racial or ethnic group.
Hate crimes against Jews, the most commonly targeted religious group, increased by 37 percent, from 684 in 2016 to 938 in 2017.
Those findings were released less than a month after a gunman killed 11 Jews celebrating Shabbat at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the most deadly slaying of Jews in the nation’s history.
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who is expected to become chairman in January, has said one of his top oversight priorities will be investigating the uptick in hate crimes since President Donald Trump took office and questioning Justice Department officials on what steps they are taking to combat those crimes.
Nadler, who is Jewish, told Roll Call in a recent interview that, as part of that effort, he wants to examine “the extent to which [the rise in hate crimes] correlates with the president’s rhetoric and coddling of white supremacists.”
Trump has vehemently denied that he has courted white supremacists with dog whistle messaging and divisive rhetoric. Last week at a White House press briefing, a PBS reporter asked the president if his embrace of the term “nationalism” at multiple campaign rallies before the midterm elections emboldened white nationalists.
“That is such a racist question,” Trump responded. “What you just said is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing that you said.”
At a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in April 2017, Trump said his administration would work to “confront anti-Semitism” and “stamp out prejudice.”
In May 2017, the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Justice Department’s “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes.”
At that hearing, Grassley advocated for a “governmental response” to religious hate crimes, including deploying law enforcement resources to “houses of worship” and creating task forces to “provide special assistance to religious groups to enhance security or for other purposes.”
On the House side, the GOP majority has taken no such steps to address the rise in hate crime incidents, despite repeated requests from Democrats.
The office of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the current Judiciary Committee chairman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There has been zero effort by Congress to respond to this extraordinary threat,” Nadler tweeted Tuesday, linking to a story outlining the highlights of the FBI hate crimes report.
“House Judiciary Democrats have demanded [Goodlatte] call emergency hearings immediately addressing this crisis. So far, our calls remain unanswered,” Nadler wrote.
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