Fact Check: Denzel Washington Did NOT Denounce Or Even Mention Black Lives Matter Protesters In Interview Discussing His 'Utmost Respect' For Police, Soldiers

Fact Check

  • by: Olivera Perkins
Fact Check: Denzel Washington Did NOT Denounce Or Even Mention Black Lives Matter Protesters In Interview Discussing His 'Utmost Respect' For Police, Soldiers No BLM Mention

Did actor Denzel Washington praise police and denounce Black Lives Matter protesters in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment? No, that's not true: Washington expressed in the interview that he had "the utmost respect" for the work many law enforcement and soldiers do, but he never mentioned Black Lives Matters or BLM protesters.

The claim appeared in a Newsmax article published on newsmax.com on February 3, 2021, titled "Denzel Washington Praises Police, Denounces BLM Protesters" (archived here) which opened:

Two-time Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington praised police and dismissed Black Lives Matter protesters, denouncing the anti-police and military sentiments and suggesting that it was hypocritical for demonstrating against the people...

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Denzel Washington Praises Police, Denounces BLM Protesters

Two-time Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington praised police and dismissed Black Lives Matter protesters, denouncing the anti-police and military sentiments and suggesting that it was hypocritical for demonstrating against the people...

The Newsmax article says that it is based on a January 27, 2021, yahoo.com article, "Frequent Movie Cop Denzel Washington Talks Policing in America: 'I have the Utmost Respect for What They Do." However, the Newsmax article takes comments Washington made in the interview out of context.

The Yahoo Entertainment article mentions Black Lives Matters, but those are the writer's words and not Washington's. The yahoo.com article makes a statement, followed by Washington's response:

And while policing in America has been under heavy scrutiny in the wake of multiple high-profile officer-involved killings, Black Lives Matter protests and calls to "defund the police" -- a discourse that has extended into entertainment with the cancellations of shows like Cops and Live PD -- Washington makes it clear where he stands on the issue.

"I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do, [people] that sacrifice their lives," Washington tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview (watch above). "I just don't care for people who put those kind of people down. If it weren't for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do."

The yahoo.com post includes the article as well as a 2:07-minute video titled, "Denzel Washington on What Playing a Cop Onscreen has Taught Him About Law Enforcement," on which the article is based. The topic of the article and video emanates from a discussion of the actor's new film. In "The Little Things" Washington "plays a disgraced Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective who finds a chance at redemption when he believes a serial killer he once chased is on another murder spree." The video doesn't specifically mention Black Lives Matter.

Beginning at about the 12-second mark, the interviewer asks Washington:

You've played bad cops. Your cop here is a good man with a checkered past. It feels like a really interesting time to play law enforcement, given recent events and conversations we're having about policing right now. This film really does cut into sort of the complications of the profession. How much thought do you put into a role like this when it comes to how law enforcement is represented?

Washington then tells about how he prepared for another movie, "Ricochet," many years ago by shadowing a police sergeant. The sergeant responded to a call about a distraught elderly man brandishing a rifle outside of his home. Just as he responded, a car with two young people came to a screeching halt not far from the senior citizen. The young people then jumped out of the car screaming. Washington said he respected the sergeant's handling of what could have been a disastrous situation. At about the 1-minute mark of the video the actor offers details:

As it turned out, it was their grandfather. This policeman defused the entire situation by just remaining calm. But it showed me in an instant how he could -- how they [police] -- can lose their life. He [sergeant] had no idea. And he didn't overreact.

He could have pulled his gun out and shot the people that came driving up real fast. He could have shot the old man that was just a bit distraught and a bit confused. I think he was suffering a little bit from dementia. But in an instant it taught me -- and I never forgot it -- what our law enforcement people have to deal with moment-to-moment, second-to-second. And, I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do -- that sacrifice their lives.

I'm directing a movie now about a soldier that makes the ultimate sacrifice. And I just don't care for people that put those kinds of people down. If it weren't for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes newsmax.com as:

A conservative site that covers politics, culture, and health, and airs videos from its cable TV network. Newsmax has published false and unsubstantiated health claims, including about vaccines and COVID-19.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

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  Olivera Perkins

Olivera Perkins is a veteran journalist and fact checker at Lead Stories, who has covered a variety of beats, including labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

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