Accuracy in Media

NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt crossed the line from observation to advocacy in his reporting last night about the immigration crisis along the Southern border.

Holt put the responsibility of children being separated from parents away from the parents committing a crime — illegal entry — as determined by Congress. Holt also failed to report that if an American citizen were to commit a crime anywhere in the United States, they would go to jail and be separated from their family.

But Holt asks a leading question about whether the government response to the illegal behavior was “child abuse,” even though the children receive medical, educational and nutritional care that on an annualized basis far exceeds taxpayer money to low-income American children.

HOLT: Dr. Colleen Kraft is a pediatrician and recently toured one of the shelters here. Is it hyperbole to call this a form of child abuse?

KRAFT: I would not call that hyperbole at all. I mean, this is government-sanctioned child abuse. We are putting these children in a very dangerous situation because we’re removing the one most-important buffer in their life, and that is their parents.

By entering the United States illegally, often in dangerous circumstances, illegal immigrants put their children at risk, yet Holt chose instead to focus on whether an American border patrol agent was “the bad guy.”

HOLT: Manuel Padilla Jr. is the region’s Border Patrol chief and oversees the facility. We met up with him on the border.

[Do] you feel like the bad guy in this to some extent? I mean, you are the instrument of a policy that is obviously very controversial right now.

MANUEL PADILLA: I feel that the option of not doing anything is going to worsen the situation. So I think we have to work with what we have right now and hopefully get the immigration laws redone.

Holt also didn’t report that since FY2013, nearly 300,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were apprehended at the southwest border—almost all of whom were promptly released into the U.S. interior. This problem existed well before Trump took office, but Holt chooses to take aim at the current administration.

HOLT: Finally tonight, the immigration conundrum. A nation of laws and a nation that values order but also one that takes pride in its compassion and its heart and its love of family. There’s nothing political about wincing or shedding a tear at the sight of a child left alone. One caught up in a dizzying circumstance not of their own making and crying for their families. And yet it’s naive to suggest politics is to not extent at the core of our dilemma. What is happening here is testing our better angels on multiple fronts, challenging our competing values of protecting our sovereignty and honoring our hearts.

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