In an echo of 2016, the president got to repeat falsehoods uninterrupted.
President Donald Trump got cable news to carry him live and uninterrupted for nearly half an hour from the West Wing Thursday, where he gave what amounted to a fear-mongering stump speech in the final days before the midterm elections.
During his rambling presentation, and in questions with reporters, Trump made many factually incorrect claims about immigrants, immigration policy and crime — including claims that asylum seekers never show up in court (two-thirds do), that Barack Obama had a harsher family separation policy than him (Trump’s was much harsher) and that he’s getting billions for his wall (he’s gotten none).
He announced no new policy changes, despite a policy announcement being the premise that got cable networks to carry the speech live. But he did offer up claims ranging from ridiculous to racist:
- As Trump prepares to send more troops to the border, he said that asylum seekers who throw rocks should know “we will consider that a firearm. Because there’s not much difference.”
- He insinuated that there’s “a lot of money” moving around in the immigrant caravan, a reference to conspiracy theories about George Soros’s secret involvement.
- He said American women should fear men coming across the border, a near-verbatim use of the racist trope that men of color are a sexual threat to white women.
- He claimed there are immigrants who come to America with “big medical problems before they get here.”
- In response to a question about a Georgia governor’s race, he volunteered that Stacey Abrams, a Yale-educated black woman with years in public service, is not qualified to serve.
The whole affair echoed the 2016 campaign, when cable news was criticized for airing Trump’s rallies uninterrupted. CNN changed its policy during the campaign, but on Thursday they aired his address in full, posting live chyrons quoting the president making objectively false claims, like “We’re not allowing migrants in.”
The White House had suggested that Trump would announce new asylum rules, but instead, the president only offered the news that he’s “finalizing a plan.”
As my colleague Dara Lind has reported, the administration is working on changes that will shape immigration policy. Trump just didn’t say what they are.
To be clear: there is major policy change on asylum in the works. We’ve been reporting on it.
This speech may have been a waste. Policy may not come out before Tues. But it’s still coming & still gonna affect people.
Don’t mistake political motivation for political theatre.
— Dara Lind (@DLind) November 1, 2018
Trump was in the White House, but he might as well have been on the campaign trail. Cable news couldn’t spot the difference.