Earlier this week, Donald Trump gave a joint address to Congress, and the pundit response before and after was, frankly, embarrassing. Yesterday, Media Matters and CNN confirmed what we’d all suspected about the whole saga: Trump deliberately misled reporters on immigration before the speech, and he had never truly intended to get moving on immigration reform.
Immigration Was A “Misdirection Play”
Here are the quotes from the CNN piece where they admit they were duped:
CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT SARA MURRAY: “Let’s just change gears entirely and talk about the bait and switch that the president pulled when it came to immigration yesterday. He had this meeting with the [news] anchors, he talked about a path to legal status.
Basically they fed us things that they thought these anchors would like, that they thought would give them positive press coverage for the next few hours. A senior administration official admitted that it was a misdirection play. And you will note that when the president was actually out there speaking to the American public, he didn’t talk about a path to legal status…
HOST JOHN KING: Maybe we shouldn’t believe what they say.
No kidding — especially when advocates and reporters familiar with the issue were screaming from the beginning that there was no reason to trust Trump on immigration.
A Timeline on How Trump Misled Reporters
It’s too easy in general to just bash the media, but frankly, we’re afraid this will all happen again the next time Trump feints toward immigration reform. So, here’s a quick recap on what not to do:
- Before the joint address, a “senior administration official” — who was later revealed to be Trump himself — spoke with reporters off-the-record about how he was interested in potentially legalizing some immigrants. A number of commentators and advocates immediately warned that off-the-record rumors meant nothing in the face of Trump’s current deportation policies, but many outlets described Trump as seeking an immigration “compromise“.
- Trump gave the joint address, in which he said he wanted to curtail legal, family-based immigration, continued to paint all immigrants as takers and criminals, gave no policy details whatsoever, and completely ignored the question of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here — whom his administration is apparently deporting indiscriminately. For this — for “nationalism with an indoor voice,” Trump was hailed as “Reaganesque”, “presidential”, and “powerful”. Give me a break.
- The day after, some in the press were still lapping up the speech so much that even Trump administration officials were surprised the tone of the coverage:
Some sources in WH are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech. Say Trump has not changed, no big shift in policy coming.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 1, 2017
Brian Beutler at the New Republic published a piece on why “the worst performance of Trump’s presidency now belongs to the press corps.” Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter and now founder of Define American, reminded reporters at a press conference that they should be “operating in facts” and “wanting context” rather than simply buying “what Donald Trump was selling as a candidate, and now as president.”
Advocates, meanwhile, tried to explain why the joint address wasn’t any kind of pivot and why there was zero reason to believe Trump was softening at all on immigration. In fact, the very morning after Trump’s speech, a Mississippi DREAMer named Daniela Vargas was picked up by ICE immediately after she spoke out about her case in a press conference — the latest victim of Trump’s mass deportation agenda. And shortly thereafter, Media Matters published the aforementioned CNN piece with Trump officials openly admitting they’d misled reporters and basically trolled the media in order to get good press coverage.
So. Can we all come back to this page the next time Donald Trump says anything about immigration reform? Can we all agree that a guy who is deporting mothers who have been in the US for decades and DREAMers who just want to be math professors is, unfortunately, not ever going to be serious about meaningful immigration reform? Can we all remember that this is Donald “Grab Them By The P—-” Trump that we’re talking about? For next time?