Roy Moore And Trump Are Not Facing A 'Lynch Mob,' Despite What White Politicians Say

Dozens of protesters gather in Times Square near a military recruitment center to show their anger at President Donald Trump's decision to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military on July 26, 2017 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Fears of a "lynch mob" are spreading through Washington—fears entirely among white Republicans.

GOP members defending Donald Trump and Roy Moore against sexual assault allegations have recently turned "lynch mob" into their favored phrase for the men's critics. The term's new life is not just completely inaccurate, historians say, but outright offensive, as it shows white leaders diminishing a racist form of violence that killed thousands of black people.

"'Lynch mob' is wrapped up in our very dark history," Civil War historian Kevin Levin told Newsweek. "Taking that language and applying it to anything—whether it's people going after Roy Moore, in the political realm or beyond—it's a way of dismissing that history."

Recently, the right can't keep from doing that.

On Wednesday, Moore's campaign spokeswoman Janet Porter told CNN that the "lynch mob media" has been going after the Republican Senate candidate over sexual misconduct allegations from nine women.

"When you have false allegations that are generated by The Washington Post there tends to be a pile-on," Porter said about the accusations that have not been proven false. "That's how a lynch mob works."

Moore is campaigning for a seat in Alabama, a state that had one of the highest numbers of lynchings in the nation's history.

The same night, Fox News correspondent Laura Ingraham warned viewers Wednesday to "be wary of the lynch mob" calling for Trump, Moore and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) to leave their respective posts over misconduct allegations. On the same show, Newt Gingrich worried about the danger of "lynching" men who are accused.

A display at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum depicts a klansman with two captured children, November 12, 2017, in Baltimore Maryland. The museum has wax figures of accomplished African American leaders, as well as graphic depictions of a slave ship and an exhibit on lynching. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The list goes on and on. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS News in June that the mainstream media are "about as fair as a lynch mob." The same month, Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti wrote a Facebook post calling for a "#LynchMob" movement to indict former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is black. Visconti then defended the post by calling political attacks against Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions a "lynch mob."

In July, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly wrote an op-ed claiming that a "media lynch mob is trying to take down Trump."

Contrary to apparent GOP belief, a real lynch mob goes far beyond mere public outrage. The phrase invokes the practice of vigilante murder that most often targeted African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Since 1882, about 3,446 black men and women were lynched, according to the NAACP. They were often hanged in public places, as a way to enforce a racist status quo and simply satisfy members of the mob. Over the years, the term "lynch mob" began to be used to describe not just the people who participated in murdering African Americans, but any group of people speaking out to protest an injustice.

After lynchings finally stopped becoming a common American practice, the term "lynch mob" morphed into an insult for any group of people speaking out against a perceived injustice or shared enemy. Only recently has it become a Republican favorite.

"The way it's used today to apply to anything we believe is unjustified misses the point of the history behind the language and what the phrase really represents," Levin said. "Lynchings often handled perceived violations of the racial status quo — accusations of black men making sexual passes at white women, or any number of issues on the color line."

The Lincoln Emancipation Statue sits in Lincoln Park on November 11, 2017 in Washington D.C.'s Capital Hill neighborhood. Paid for by former slaves and placed in the park in 1876, the statue depicts racial attitudes of the 19th century from a northern perspective. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Interestingly, the term has not been used in cases that would make much more sense. Rather than calling Trump a one-man lynch mob for his racist treatment of the Central Park 5, pundits and supporters of the president say that the investigation into his campaign's involvement with Russia is a "lynch mob" or "witch hunt."

Using the term to denigrate sexual assault accusations against Moore doesn't just cast his accusers as liars in a way that critics have called sexist and dismissive, but brings racism into the conversation, too, given the historical connotations described by Levin. Critics say it fits into a pattern of "racist rhetoric" that Trump himself has spread among his party. Trump's use of racist dog-whistle terms demonstrates the subtle racism can be infused into political rhetoric to paint a certain picture of an intended enemy.

"The government never fully addressed the violence of the Jim Crow era," said Levin, describing failed efforts to pass federal anti-lynching laws. "For that reason I'd say, if I need to make a point about something I see as unjustifiable, I can find other words to use."