MSNBC Host, Presidential Candidates Share Post Falsely Claiming Trump Called Asylum Seekers ‘Animals’

An MSNBC host, a CNN analyst, and multiple Democratic presidential candidates were among those sharing and commenting on a post that falsely claimed President Donald Trump called asylum seekers “animals,” a cycle of renewed disinformation about a clip from 2018.

Chris Hayes of MSNBC retweeted a video clip of Trump talking about MS-13 gang members. But the clip was edited to make it appear as if he were talking about asylum seekers.

Mark Elliott, with the nonprofit Economic Mobility Corp., originally shared the misleading video with the caption “Trump on people asking for asylum ‘These aren’t people. These are animals.'”

Judd Apatow, a famous movie director, shared Elliott’s post, adding the caption, “Nazi garbage.”

Hayes shared Apatow’s post without adding any context.

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Presidential candidates also fell for the clip, including Fort Wayne Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “You do not refer to human beings as animals. You just don’t,” said Buttigieg. “Racist language like this has led to violence throughout the world’s history. No human being is an animal. We have to be better than this,” Gillibrand added.

Reporters with the New York Times and Buzzfeed, and a CNN analyst were also among the people sharing the edited clip.  Ana Navarro, a CNN analyst, posted a picture of a Nicaraguan boy who she said was seeking asylum in the United States. “His name is William. Trump calls him ‘animal,'” she wrote.

The clip was taken from a video originally posted by C-Span on May 16, 2018. Trump made the comments during a roundtable on sanctuary cities and immigration laws.

Trump was responding to a comment by Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims, who mentioned how she was being blocked by sanctuary laws from informing federal immigration officials about MS-13 gang members.

In response, Trump said, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—and we’re stopping a lot of them—but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

“The dumbest laws—as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world. So we’re going to take care of it, Margaret. We’ll get it done,” he added.

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President Donald Trump with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif., center), other elected officials, and law enforcement officials at a roundtable in California on May 18, 2018. (White House)

C-Span featured a 51-second clip from the 54-minute video titled “President Trump Calls Gang Members ‘animals.'”

The website correctly noted that the president was actually referring to MS-13 gang members.

“During a roundtable with local California officials regarding ‘sanctuary cities’ policies, President Trump says his administration is busy rounding up MS-13 gang members and deporting them. ‘These aren’t people,’ he says. ‘These are animals,'” C-Span wrote.

In May 2018, the comment was also framed incorrectly by a host of media outlets and Democratic officials. Others admitted he was talking about gang members but argued that even criminals shouldn’t be referred to as “animals.”

CBS News, for instance, shared the clip and didn’t include context that the president was referring to a gripe from a sheriff about MS-13 gang members. ABC News framed the story by saying the president referred “to some people who cross the border illegally as ‘animals,’ not people.'”

The Associated Press was among the outlets that added corrections after the fact, deleting a tweet because “it wasn’t made clear he was speaking” about MS-13.

CNBC reporter John Harwood was among those defending the criminals, writing at the time, “However repugnant their actions, MS-13 gang members are human beings.”

And Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of the Democratic leaders, also said that the president shouldn’t have called gang members “animals.”

Trump later hit back at Pelosi during a rally in August, telling supporters, “These are evil people. This is a group of gang members. I can’t say animals anymore because Nancy Pelosi got really angry when I called them animals. I called them animals. She went crazy. I can’t do it.”

“I can’t call them animals,” he continued, ”even though they have guns. But they don’t like using guns because it’s not painful enough. They want to slice people up, young girls walking home from school, 16 years old, and they sliced them up. They died.”