If you’ve been scanning news headlines in the past 24 hours, you might have read that President Donald Trump on Wednesday called immigrants “animals.”
Here are a few of the headlines:
“During Roundtable, Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’” (NPR)
“Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant” (New York Times)
“Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants: ‘These aren’t people. These are animals.’” (USA Today)
Then, Mediate did a nice roundup of tweets from news outlets that also promoted the narrative:
“These aren’t people. These are animals.” President Trump used the harsh rhetoric to describe some undocumented immigrants during a California “sanctuary state” roundtable. https://t.co/mOwXilRtwE pic.twitter.com/eYC6XhtR57
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 16, 2018
“We’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people — these are animals.” During a meeting with public officials who oppose California’s sanctuary policies, Pres. Trump criticized US immigration laws https://t.co/2KcrIhMnyR pic.twitter.com/SsmCdaofHb
— CNN (@CNN) May 17, 2018
Pres. Trump refers to some who cross the border illegally as ‘animals,’ not people. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.”
— ABC News (@ABC) May 17, 2018
So, between the tweets and the headlines, we have six of the biggest news outlets in the United States promoting the narrative that Trump called illegal immigrants “animals” during a roundtable Wednesday.
There’s just one catch: The president was referring to MS-13 gang members.
If you look at the full transcript from the White House, here’s what was said:
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about—if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
Trump: 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. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These 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.
The dumbest laws — as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world. So, we’re going to take care of it, Margaret. We’ll get it done.
So, if you read the full transcript, it’s an extremely reasonable assumption Trump was referring to member of the notorious gang MS-13 as “animals,” not all—or many—illegal immigrants.
Yet, none of these headlines or tweets note that the “some” illegal immigrants are actually gang members.
Personally, I’d rather never call another human being, no matter how reprehensible his actions, an “animal.”
But it’s ridiculous to pretend that people scanning the headlines would have the same reaction to ““Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant” as to, say, “Trump Calls Some MS-13 Gang Members ‘Animals’ in Rant.”
Those are very different statements.
Now, the Associated Press at least has taken responsibility for leaving out context, tweeting today:
AP has deleted a tweet from late Wednesday on Trump’s “animals” comment about immigrants because it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 17, 2018
That’s good—and other media outlets should step up to the plate. Readers deserve accurate reporting from outlets that say they are objective and non-ideological, not slanted reporting that completely eliminates crucial context.