This controversy already feels like it played out ages ago, but fewer than two weeks have passed since we were all yelling at each other about whether President Trump was right to refer to members of MS-13 as ‘animals’ in response to a law enforcement officer’s question during an immigration roundtable. That national ‘debate’ was largely triggered, I might add, by multiple media outlets’ garbage journalism, which initially and wrongly framed Trump’s comments as directed at illegal immigrants more broadly — or at least did not make crystal clear that the president was specifically targeting a brutal criminal gang with his epithet. Some news organizations corrected their misleading or false work, while others doubled down with a version of the old ‘fake but accurate’ chestnut, in an effort to shift blame onto Trump.
Do I wish the president had been more explicit and specific on this point in the moment? Yes. Does he have a history of racially or religiously-charged equivocations and provocations that likely informed his critics’ reflexively uncharitable — and inaccurate, in this case — interpretation of what he said? Again, yes. Do either of those factors excuse the blend of media laziness and bias that led to the blowing of this story? Not for a second. This was, as Katie rightly labeled it on day one, fake news. Even after most Trump detractors finally conceded the point that ‘animals’ was directed at MS-13, we were then treated to a fight over whether or not it was “dehumanizing” or unjust to brand any human beings with a derogatory “animals” label. Now that the dust has settled a bit on that conversation, the American people have weighed in:
— The Hill (@thehill) May 24, 2018
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