Blame Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson for the plot to blow up Baltimore’s power grid | COMMENTARY

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, left, of Catonsville and Brandon Clint Russell, right, of Orlando, Florida, plotted to shoot and destroy multiple electrical substations in the Baltimore region to further their extremist, violent, racial and ethnic beliefs, said U.S. Attorney Erek Barron.

The two people charged in federal court with plotting to blow up Baltimore’s power grid are certainly to blame for putting the region in danger, if the allegations against them are accurate. But they’re not the only responsible parties.

You can draw a direct line from the foiled neo-Nazi plot, revealed by federal authorities Monday, to conservative commentators and conspiracy-mongering cult figures like Donald Trump, who for years have riled up their minions on the alt-right with distortions about Maryland’s largest city.


Following the public uprising after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody, Laura Ingraham of Fox News claimed the city had “no male role models, no discipline, no jobs, no values.” In 2019, then-President Donald Trump called it a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Last year, Tucker Carlson, also of Fox, deemed Baltimore “one of the worst places in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a little bit of Haiti in the Mid-Atlantic.”

What makes the city such a target for this particular group is not just that Baltimore is run by Democrats, though that certainly adds to the fun of using it as a political punching bag. It’s that our population is majority Black, a subtext to the comments that was made abundantly clear in Carlson’s overtly racist Haiti comparison. And that’s red meat for white supremacist rage.


According to federal authorities, the Florida founder of the “Atomwaffen Division” hate group, a National Guard veteran who’d just finished a five-year stint in prison for illegally possessing explosives, plotted with his Catonsville girlfriend to “completely lay [Baltimore] to waste.” The city wasn’t chosen for this act of domestic terrorism because of any particular vulnerability in its electrical system. It was chosen because Atomwaffen, which now goes by the name National Socialist Order, is a “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist” group, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Its other targets have included “racial minorities, the Jewish community, the LGBTQ community, the United States Government [and] journalists,” all of whom are under attack by conservatives.

Does anyone really need examples? Look at their anti-immigrant reaction to the crisis at the border; the campaigns against Critical Race Theory and the teaching of Black history; the Mar-a-Lago dinner with a Holocaust denier; the efforts to ban books dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation; the election denial and distrust of government; and our personal favorite, the made-up claims about “fake news.”

So many sections of society have had targets drawn on their backs by certain conservatives who’d rather tear down the rest of the world than focus on the very real issues in their own backyards, many of which are the same as those found in Democratic strongholds, such as poverty, drug use and a lack of resources. They employ the same kind of propaganda against their fellow citizens that other countries use to justify hatred of America as a whole with an equally dangerous outcome. Their rhetoric fuels unprovoked attacks on places of worship, gay nightclubs, Black men jogging through neighborhoods, people peacefully protesting racism and now, Baltimore’s power grid. Who will be next?

Of course liberals are not without their biases or extremists, but “canceling” a comedian for controversial jokes is a far cry from inciting mass destruction and rebellion again and again. Is that the plan of these supposed conservative thought leaders? To turn their followers into foot soldiers? One has to wonder.

No one was hurt in the effort to bring down Baltimore because the two people accused of the crime had the misfortune to unwittingly plan it with an FBI informant, unlike whoever shot up a North Carolina substation in December, leaving 45,000 people without power. But we have no doubt that others will rise to replace these two, fueled by the drivel spouted by so many conservative talking heads.

To those who buy that baloney and spread it, who refuse to see any context or bigger picture to societal ills, who trash Baltimore as filled with criminals without having set foot here, know this: You, too, are to blame.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.