TIME magazine is standing by a cover photo and story critical of Trump’s immigration policies that reporters exposed Friday as factually incorrect, wildly misleading, and lacking important context.
The cover features a 2-year-old Honduran girl sobbing as she looks up at Trump, with the words “Welcome to America.” Inside, TIME reported the little girl was one of those separated from her mother because of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy on families crossing the border illegally. She was taken “screaming” from her mother by border agents, the report claimed.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 21, 2018
The photo and story made a big splash in the media war over the separation policy, which Trump has since ended, but both have now been completely dismantled by the press, resulting in a major correction.
“The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she taken from the scene,” the correction reads. “The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together.”
Reuters talked to the little girl’s father, who said she was not separated from her mother. The Honduran government confirmed his version of events. A border patrol agent who was at the scene, Carlos Ruiz, described what actually happened to CBS News.
We were patrolling the border, it was after 10 o’clock at night. We asked her to set the kid down in front of her, not away from her … and so we can properly search the mother. So, the kid immediately started crying as she set her down. I personally went up to the mother and asked her, ‘Are you doing okay, is the kid okay?’ And she said, ‘Yes, she’s tired and thirsty and it’s 11 o’clock at night.
The father also revealed the mother left three other children behind, and was crossing the border in search of a job — not in search of asylum. She didn’t tell any of them when she left. He told The Daily Mail the photo “broke his heart,” and he didn’t support her decision.
“Why would she want to put our little girl through that?” he said. “But it was her decision at the end of the day.”
In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement told media outlets the mother was attempting to cross the border illegally for a second time — moving her crime from a misdemeanor up to a felony.
“I don’t have any resentment for my wife, but I do think it was irresponsible of her to take the baby with her in her arms because we don’t know what could happen,” the father added.
He also claimed he heard the mother paid a smuggler $6,000 to get her across the border .
The combination of erroneous reporting, missing context and lack of due diligence in the reporting process from TIME here are stunning. What was supposed to be a story highlighting the plight of families who are torn apart as they flee violence turned out instead to highlight exactly the kind of case that conservatives say makes the situation at the border complex. Some families are falsely claiming asylum to game the system, knowingly putting their children in danger, and drug traffickers and smugglers are taking advantage of the situation. It’s not as simple as the media class has made it out to be.
TIME defended its cover and its reporting Friday, essentially claiming the facts are irrelevant because of the propaganda value of the piece. The photo and story “capture the stakes of this moment,” the editor in chief told reporter Hadas Gold.
“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason,” the EIC told reporter Hadas Gold. “Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders criticized the piece in a tweet Friday.
It’s shameful that dems and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda. She was not separated from her mom. The separation here is from the facts. Dems should join POTUS and fix our broken immigration system. #ChangetheLawshttps://t.co/Y6KrTp4Ulk
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 22, 2018
“It’s shameful that dems and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda,” she said. “She was not separated from her mom. The separation here is from the facts. Dems should join POTUS and fix our broken immigration system.”