President Donald Trump referring to members of the illegal immigrant gang MS-13 as “animals” caused a furor Wednesday night and into Thursday. This was fueled in part by some media outlets misreporting Trump’s statement as applying to all illegal immigrants and not just the notorious Central American gang. This led to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders responding to a question during the White House Press briefing today stating the President’s “animals” description did not go far enough.
Trump’s “animals” comment came in response to Fresno County Sherrif Margaret Mims’ complaints over California’s sanctuary city laws and how they prevented her from reporting MS-13 gang members to Immigration and Customers (ICE).
“These aren’t people. These are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a rate that’s never happened before,” Trump said in regard to MS-13.
News outlets such as the Associated Press and the New York Times, among others, reported President’s Trump’s comments as referring to “undocumented” or “unauthorized” immigrants in headlines and not specifically to gangs. Meanwhile, The Washington Post went further and described the reference as evoking “an ugly history of dehumanization” despite correctly including the MS-13 reference in the transcript.
The Associated Press deleted its Twitter post from Wednesday night before posting another Thursday morning explaining it “wasn’t made clear that [Trump] was speaking after a comment about gang members.”
Sanders Strikes Back
Q: "What did the president mean when he said that some immigrants are non-people, they're animals?"— CSPAN (@cspan) May 17, 2018
.@PressSec Sarah Sanders: "The president was very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members…" She also says, "Frankly, I think that the term 'animal' doesn't go far enough." pic.twitter.com/Icdt50eIsU
While some outlets did make an effort to correct the erroneous reporting of President Trump’s “animals” comment, the situation still led to a testy confrontation during the White House press briefing when a reporter asked, “What did the president mean when he said that some immigrants are non-people, they’re animals?”
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated, “The President was very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members who enter the country illegally and whose deportations are hamstrung by our laws.”
MS-13’s motto is “rape, control, kill” as Sanders noted in her response to the reporter before stating, “Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough.”
Who Is MS-13
The illegal immigrant gang has been responsible for some of the most horrific crimes to be committed in the United States, including decapitating and dismembering a man along with cutting out his heart, as the Washington Post reported late last year.
The gang is also well-known for forcing underage girls into prostitution. A WLJA report from February of this year described an MS-13 leader who pimped out a number of underage girls from different states. An informant told police that three members of the gang took one 15-year old girl behind a home and took turns beating her with a “solid bat” 28 times. This resulted in numerous injuries including “indented” buttocks, discolored arms and legs, and visible bleeding from the neck down.
MS-13 has been a particular focus of the Trump administration as it pushes back against illegal immigration into the United States. The President has referred to the gang as “animals” in the past and invited Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, whose children were murdered by MS-13, to his State of the Union Address this past January.