President Trump’s comments at the White House Wednesday about MS-13 and immigrant crime were quickly taken out of context in mainstream media coverage.
In a discussion at an immigration roundtable about the difficulty of fighting the violence and drugs associated with gangs under the constraints California imposes with its sanctuary city law, one of the attendees, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, told the president:
“Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.”
The president responded, “It’s a disgrace, OK? It’s a disgrace.”
“There could be an MS-13 member I know about – if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] about it,” the sheriff said.
“We have people coming into the country … or trying to come in – and we’re stopping a lot of them – but we’re taking people out of the country,” Trump responded. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. They are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”
All the press heard of the discussion was, “These aren’t people. They are animals.”
“President Trump on Thursday pointedly referred to undocumented immigrants as ‘animals’ in a statement his critics say betrays a gross misunderstanding of the plight of people who came to the United States illegally, and beyond that, little sympathy for them,” wrote the Washington Post.
“Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants: ‘These aren’t people. These are animals,” read the headline on USA Today’s story.
“During Roundtable, Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals,’” wrote National Public Radio.
“Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant,” read the New York Times headline.
CNN begins a video on the event with the president speaking, which makes it seem as if he is talking about all illegal immigrants rather than only gang members.
“Trump Calls People Who Cross Border Illegally ‘Animals,’” read the Bloomberg headline.
Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks posted a video in which he said, “So, Trump said about undocumented immigrants … these aren’t people, they’re animals. It’s like the fourth time he’s called immigrants animals.”
Later, it said, “The fact that they don’t like immigrants is obvious. In fact, it’s not just undocumented immigrants. … This is fascism. This is what they do. They dehumanize people.”
The Washington Post hit that theme as well with a follow-up piece headlined, “In reference to ‘animals,’ Trump evokes an ugly history of dehumanization.”
The story accuses the president of “conflating the minority of undocumented immigrants who get involved with criminal activity with the ‘dreamers’ and other law-abiding immigrants.”
It then pointed to comments on social media that “referring to marginalized groups as subhuman has been a way dictators have justified the abuse of those groups. This happened with the Jewish people during the Holocaust. It happened with the Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. And it is happening now with the Rohingya people in Burma.”
The headline on the Vox website read: “Trump on deported immigrants: They’re not people. They’re animals.” The subhead read: “Whether President Trump was referring to MS-13 gang members or all deportees is unclear. But he didn’t exactly hasten to clarify.”
The lead of the story tells us this was “the latest in a series of statements stretching Trump’s entire national political career that carelessly conflate immigration, criminality and violence.”