After spending a full week promoting the discredited story that Border Patrol agents whipped illegal immigrants from Haiti attempting to cross the U.S. border in Texas, CNN pushed back against the “faulty media narrative” — without retracting, or even mentioning, its own misstatements.
CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, media reporter Oliver Darcy, and news anchor Jake Tapper all addressed the erroneous reports emanating from social media.
“How can DHS claim to have an independent investigation into these Border Patrol agents, when the president says, quote, ‘Those people will pay,’ and you say the images ‘horrified us’?” Tapper questioned Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday’s “State of the Union.”
Mayorkas doubled down that “what those images suggest, what they appeared to portray, was horrifying.”
“But that’s the thing,” Tapper responded. “Some of the initial descriptions of those images were just patently false. There’s now video out there that provides more context. Having seen the video, are you certain that there was actually wrongdoing?”
He pressed the secretary, “Can the Border Patrol count on you and President Biden, who has said that people will pay, to come to a determination based on the facts and not based on Twitter outrage?”
Mayorkas insisted law enforcement can count on a fair hearing, hailing Border Patrol agents’ “heroism,” “commitment to this country, their talent and tireless dedication to mission. I’m incredibly proud to work alongside them.”
“The nice words you said about [Border Patrol], you should probably share with President Biden — not just with me today,” Tapper replied.
WATCH: CNN’s Jake Tapper calls out the Biden administration for “patently false” descriptions of mounted Border Patrol agents in Texas.
“The nice words you said about [Border Patrol], you should probably share with President Biden—not just with me today.” pic.twitter.com/yUI3c0irJ9
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 26, 2021
Brian Stelter discussed the “faulty media narrative involving” whips with Darcy on “Reliable Sources.”
“Do you feel like some news outlets who didn’t do enough, weren’t scrutinizing that narrative enough on day one, or hour one, and that’s what went wrong?” asked Stelter.
Darcy admitted that “perhaps” journalists “probably should have looked a little more into the matter, talked to people on the ground” before running with it. “This spread quite quickly,” Darcy said. “Some news organizations were more careful than others.”
But, he said inaccurately, the story did not penetrate the legacy media’s reporting itself. “This wasn’t something where major news organizations were running with this [Border Patrol ‘whipping’ story],” he said. “It was something where journalists, maybe, were commenting on social media about some viral images.”
Contra Darcy, CNN repeatedly promoted the narrative that Border Patrol agents used “whips” all last week:
- The network’s top-rated personality, Chris Cuomo, shared erroneous “reports of people being beaten,” claiming the images “smack of a bygone era, of slavery.” Thus far, no evidence has surfaced that the Border Patrol’s reins touched anyone;
- Erin Burnett reported on an alleged “video of border patrol agents on horseback confronting Haitian migrants with whips” on the September 21 episode of “Outfront”;
- CNN White House correspondent John Harwood condemned “those horrendous videos of agents on horseback swinging lariats or whips, or whatever they were” on Friday, September 24 episode of “At This Hour”;
- Christiane Amanpour interviewed an activist who said that photos of agents allegedly “using reins as whips against migrants, they were not only startling and shocking, but it’s triggering.” Amanpour did not correct her guest, instead said the U.S. immigration system seems “unnecessarily cruel” compared to “other countries that uphold human rights and democratic rule of law” on the September 21 episode of “Amanpour”;
- CNN anchor Laura Jarrett misled her viewers about “disturbing new video of Border Patrol agents on horseback trying to stop migrants from crossing the border into the U.S. — look at that, using whips,” on the September 21 episode of “Early Start”;
- Even Jake Tapper — who largely stuck to straight reporting from the border — said that “Border Patrol agents are aggressively threatening migrants” on September 21 and “aggressively confronting Haitian migrants” on September 23; and
- CNN’s April Ryan asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki on September 22 if the Biden administration condemns “patrol agents were doing with the reins or whips, whatever, with the intent to lash, to hurt people, to keep them away from the border.” Psaki reiterated that she is “outraged” by the photos and that a DHS investigation remains ongoing.
Neither Stelter nor Darcy mentioned any of these clips during their report.
To its credit, “Don Lemon Tonight” allowed former George W. Bush assistant Scott Jennings to say, “There was an instant sort of reaction, ‘Oh, they’re using whips.’ They’re not whips. …I don’t like the idea that we ask these public servants to do an impossible job and then we vilify them because people don’t know the difference between whips and reins. … I don’t [think] these border patrol agents ought to take the brunt of our anger about a failed policy” from the Biden-Harris administration. September 21.
CNN is far from alone ne ne in placing an inaccurate spin on the viral photographs and video. On Sunday, Axios deleted a tweet that accused Border Patrol agents of whipping unarmed people at the border.
We deleted a previous tweet that referred to Border Patrol agents as whipping at Haitian migrants.
The story has been updated to include comments from some journalists on the border who did not see whipping occur.
— Axios (@axios) September 26, 2021
Although CNN has abandoned the “whip” narrative, it proved a highly influential fable. Jen Psaki announced on September 23 that Border Patrol agents would no longer use horses, although Tapper noted that agents had to ride horses in certain areas, “because there are no roads in so many parts of the border. And a lot of [Border Patrol agents] have saved the lives of [illegal im]migrants trying to cross the river.”
The “whips” narrative also cemented a view of Border Patrol agents as cruel people enforcing the Biden administration’s harsh border policies. In reality, the vast majority of the estimated 15,000 illegal immigrants from Haiti who had massed in Del Rio, Texas, were released into the interior of the United States. On “Fox News Sunday,” Mayorkas put the number of Haitian beneficiaries of the Biden administration’s catch-and-release policy at “about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” he said. “It could be even higher.” He added that “we did not test that population” for COVID-19.
The “Reliable Sources” segment proves that even CNN believes a week of instantly discredited reporting about Border Patrol agents using whips should have deleterious effects on the legacy media’s credibility. “It didn’t happen,” wrote the immigration reduction group Numbers USA. “And it is outrageous that this lie was used by [President Biden] and [DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas] as an excuse to open the border to illegal immigration even more.”
— NumbersUSA (@NumbersUSA) September 26, 2021
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