Commentary: “Call An Addict” Isn’t The Hot Take This GOP Senator Seems To Think

Imagine an emergency. Now imagine you can’t call the police. Who’s your next choice? Of course, it depends on the emergency, and this could range from your friend who’s great at conflict resolution, to a mechanic or electricion, to other emergency services such as fire or ambulance. If you’re Republican Senator John Kennedy, however, your answer might be, “Call an addict!” That’s now been his suggestion twice this month alone for anyone who wants to fight for police accountability.

[Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images]

Okay, the first thing to address here is the rampant demonization of addiction. Senator Kennedy wanted to name someone who would sound like a bad idea. He wanted to set up a false binary, where a person can only either think police are doing a great job, or call — well, someone incredibly undesirable instead. Two separate times this month, he had that thought, and concluded that “drug user” was the person to fill the second blank.

That said, Kennedy is really stuck on this. Here’s the new clip in which he tells Sean Hannity that people who “hate cops” should “call a criminal, call a meth head” when they need help. (Side note: that’s a strawman. He’s using “hate cops” as a convenient reframing of “call for police accountability.” When we discuss police brutality, that’s not about hating police, that’s about accountability for criminal behavior.)

He framed this the same way earlier this month, speaking on Fox News. “If you hate cops just because they’re cops, you don’t know anything about ’em, then next time you get in trouble call a crack head.”

Meanwhile, he goes on to insist that “we have racial minorities and ethnic groups in America that have higher crime rates.” It would likely be more accurate to say that there are groups in America that are less likely to face consequences for their crimes.

Just to address perhaps the most innocuous possible example of illegal activity and racial disparity, Norml has statistics showing that Black and white Americans use marijuana (still largely illegal in the U.S.) at pretty equivalent rates, but Black Americans are four times as likely to face charges for it.

The crime statistics we have available for most illegal activity, however, are actually arrest statistics — which means that if similar truths apply, then our statistics aren’t going to do a good job of showing who is actually committing crimes. Instead, they show who gets punished for them.

Ultimately, it’s John Kennedy doubling down on a long list of strawmen, racist tropes, distortions, and anti-addict bigotry, to get to one major point: no police accountability. If you want police to be accountable for their actions, Kennedy wants you to call someone else, instead.

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