When Donald Trump’s teleprompter froze during his speech announcing the end of a government shutdown, the president fell back into a familiar claim that immigrants are smuggling women bound with duct tape over the border — a claim that some experts say is completely made up.
On Friday, the president made a statement from the White House lawn, announcing an end to the shutdown that had stretched for six weeks following his veto of a bipartisan funding measure. Trump’s remarks emphasized the need for a border wall to provide security against drug trafficking and human traffickers. When his teleprompter failed, the president ad-libbed and brought up a familiar argument — that migrants are driving across the border with duct-taped women in vehicles.
As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted via Twitter, the claim has been disputed by a number of trafficking experts — who said there is no evidence at all of what Donald Trump has claimed. As the Daily Kos noted in a previous report, Trump had made the claim in a series of statements calling for the border wall, often in very vivid and graphic detail.
As he did, Trump became increasingly specific in his recounting of how human traffickers bound women to bring them into the United States.
“But human trafficking — grabbing women, in particular — and children, but women — taping them up, wrapping tape around their mouths so they can’t shout or scream, tying up their hands behind their back and even their legs and putting them in a back seat of a car or a van — three, four, five, six, seven at a time.”
The claims about duct-taped women drew criticism and even rebukes from some human trafficking experts, who called out Donald Trump for what they believe to be baseless anecdotes. The Toronto Star spoke to a series of trafficking experts who said they never saw anything like what Trump was describing.
“Either he’s watching action films or he’s watching some other type of movie that involves handcuffs and tape over people’s mouths. But in neither case is it based in any reality of what individuals helping trafficking victims see,” Lori Cohen, director of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families, told the newspaper.
Martina Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, added that Trump’s description of human trafficking is “practically unrecognizable” from what experts in the field have been combating.
Donald Trump now has three more weeks to make his case for border funding, as the announcement on Friday brought only a temporary end to the government shutdown.