Trump stoking fear amid border funding fight

Brian Stelter says Trump and his allies are pushing phony and misleading information linking terrorism to immigration. Frank Bruni says they are "knowingly lying in the service of their political goal." David Frum and Karen Finney also weigh in.

Posted: Jan 7, 2019 4:43 PM
Updated: Jan 7, 2019 4:46 PM

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

The "wall" funding fight that has forced a partial government shutdown is also a fight over facts. President Donald Trump has repeatedly distorted the situation at the southern border and stoked fear about immigration. Government agencies have shared misleading statistics. And Trump's media allies have created an echo chamber for the falsehoods.

Journalists keep having to step in to state the facts. Case in point, "Fox News Sunday" moderator Chris Wallace anticipated this trickery by Sarah Sanders: "We know that roughly nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is southern border."

Wallace interrupted: "I know the statistic. I didn't know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this. Do you know what those 4,000 people come where they are captured? Airports."

Sanders said "not always," purposefully trying to confuse and scare people. "Airports," Wallace emphasized. "The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists found coming across the southern border."

Thank you, Chris Wallace...

Facts v. "emotional appeal"

The Wallace interview especially stood out because other Fox shows have been promoting faulty stats to stir up fear. But it's definitely not just about stats. I was reminded of this while watching "Fox & Friends" this weekend, with its numerous segments about violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Emotions trump reason.

As Security analyst Adam Isacson was quoted saying in Sunday's WaPo: "They are stuck on this wall thing because of its emotional appeal."

Fear-mongering in action

Trump and his aides are "knowingly lying in the service of their political goal," Frank Bruni said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources" when I highlighted the Sanders/Wallace exchange.

It reminded me of this Post story from a few days ago. Ellen Nakashima reported that the DOJ "has acknowledged errors and deficiencies in a controversial report issued a year ago that implied a link between terrorism in the United States and immigration, but — for the second and final time — officials have declined to retract or correct the document."

New Trump campaign ad warns about drugs and gangs

The fear-mongering is evident in this new Trump 2020 ad. The ad began airing on CNN on Saturday, so I brought it up on Sunday's show. "Drugs, terrorists, violent criminals and child traffickers trying to enter our country -- but Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer care more about the radical left than keeping us safe," the ad claims. "The consequences? Drug deaths. Violent murder. Gang violence. We must not allow it..."

Pelosi to Nielsen: "I don't believe your facts"

That brings us back to the fight over facts. The other day the WSJ described a "tense exchange" between Pelosi and DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, with Pelosi interrupting Nielsen's presentation to dispute DHS data. CNN's Boris Sanchez had details in this story on Saturday — he said "Pelosi twice cut into Nielsen's presentations to dismiss DHS statistics on border security as inaccurate."

Per a W.H. official, Pelosi told Nielsen "I don't believe your facts." A Pelosi aide told CNN: "In presentations made, they have repeatedly used statistics not supported by fact. They're trying to cast every single migrant as a terrorist or someone with a violent criminal history. The secretary has proven herself to not be credible on these issues."

-- Important CNN piece: "Fact-checking the DHS border presentation"

Where does Trump get his facts?

On "State of the Union," Jake Tapper raised a related issue -- the president's sketchy sources of information — in a very newsy interview with new acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Tapper pointed out that managing the flow of info to Trump has been an issue for the past two years. Mulvaney responded: "The president gets the best information that's available. He just does."

Tapper brought up the concern in the context of Trump's recent expression of support for the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan... I also brought up Trump's revisionist history on "Reliable," with David Frum, who has said that POTUS straight-up spouted Russian propaganda. Frum's question: "How did this particular piece of disinformation get into the president's head? That's something you can't report, we can only surmise."

Will news coverage move the needle?

News coverage is showing the impacts of the partial government shutdown -- will it make a difference? Will the personal stories and the pictures of long airport security lines influence the negotiations?

→ Headline on CNN.com right now: "This family thought their troubles were over. Then the government shutdown left them in limbo."

Frum says Trump coverage should be even tougher

With Jill Abramson causing controversy for saying her former paper, the NYT, is "anti-Trump," we had a very interesting conversation on Sunday's show about what it means to be "anti-Trump." (Abramson declined our interview requests because her book comes out in a month.)

"I don't think we've been anti-Trump. I think we have been negative. And I think that's the only honest way to cover this presidency," NYT op-ed columnist Frank Bruni said.

David Frum went even further: "Relative to the truth, the prestige press in this country has a pro-Trump bias. Relative to the truth, Trump gets easier coverage than he deserves." Watch him make the case here...

How Fox talks about impeachment

We know how POTUS feels -- "you can't impeach somebody that's doing a great job." But how do his Fox fans talk about it? Here are three examples...

-- On Sunday's "F&F," Pete Hegseth called NYT's David Leonhardt a "fraud" for writing a column that said "The US has never had a president as demonstrably unfit for the office as Trump. And it's becoming clear that 2019 is likely to be dominated by a single question: What are we going to do about it?" Hegseth didn't bother engaging with the core points of the column...

-- Jeanine Pirro to Rep. Rashida Tlaib: "Show me where in the Constitution, Rashida, it says you can impeach a president because you hate him?"

-- Jesse Watters: "If you impeach Trump, you get President Pence. Now imagine what kind of judges HE'LL name to the Supreme Court. They'll make Kavanaugh look like Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

NOW, FROM RIGHT TO LEFT...

We led Sunday's show with the Democratic power shift and how Dems are covered by the press in the Trump age. This Bill Kristol tweet caught my eye: "As a non-Democrat, I'm struck by how much the media seem obsessed by possible rifts among Democrats, narrow lines they'll have to walk, stray utterances of their backbenchers, etc, than by the rather more massive fact that we have a president and administration in total meltdown." Is that true? Three CNN political commentators, all Democrats, joined me in the "A block..."

-- Symone Sanders talked about the disconnect between pundits and the public. "It's really important that folks go on the ground, and that we're talking to real people..."

-- Karen Finney (in her first appearance as a CNNer!) emphasized the importance of language. "We can't be afraid to call out things that are racist or sexist..."

-- Dan Pfeiffer said "Trump drives clicks" for media outlets so Democrats will have to rely on "alternatives," from podcasts like his own ("Pod Save America") to Instagram live chats...

Inside Sherrod and Schultz's 2020 discussions

Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and the better half of Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, told me they will decide in the next two months about whether he'll run for president. I appreciated how candid she was about the decision-making process... We also talked about the framing of the 2020 primary, how female candidates like Elizabeth Warren are described differently, and more... Video of our TV interview is up now, and CNN's Devan Cole has a recap...

PLUS: The full interview is on our podcast... Listen via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite app...

Read more of Sunday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

FOR THE RECORD

By Katie Pellico:

-- Anne Helen Petersen diagnoses Millennials as "the burnout generation..." (BuzzFeed)

-- "A Grindr harassment suit could change the legal landscape for tech — and free speech." (NBC News)

-- ICYMI: "Keeping up with Netflix originals is basically a part-time job now," Ashley Rodriguez writes: "By Quartz's measure, the streaming-video giant put out nearly 90,000 minutes—close to 1,500 hours—of original series, movies, and other productions" in 2018... (Quartz)

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
Wabash5250101
Jasper520475
Jefferson504695
Ripley492485
Adams472773
Daviess4596112
Scott433968
Greene421196
Wells419787
Clay418460
White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
LaGrange352078
Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
Fountain331858
Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
Franklin262742
Carroll258232
Rush257232
Vermillion254254
Parke229726
Pike227343
Tipton225659
Blackford187840
Pulaski181155
Crawford158122
Newton155648
Benton150117
Brown144047
Martin137319
Switzerland133911
Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
Unassigned0532

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1494160

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1623021662
Cuyahoga1442512412
Hamilton1042291409
Montgomery729771240
Summit607921094
Lucas55462904
Butler50923707
Stark457361053
Lorain34972568
Warren32373369
Mahoning30168672
Clermont27861321
Lake26543434
Delaware23920162
Licking23442283
Trumbull22420552
Fairfield22117241
Greene22014311
Medina21673305
Clark19567349
Richland18260280
Portage17616247
Wood17174220
Allen15672269
Miami15305296
Muskingum14481174
Columbiana13656263
Wayne13538263
Tuscarawas12415298
Marion11760175
Scioto11336154
Pickaway11264141
Erie10613180
Ross10425196
Lawrence9638137
Hancock9504149
Ashtabula9410197
Belmont9086197
Geauga8795157
Jefferson8455191
Huron8193139
Union809156
Washington8009137
Sandusky7677145
Athens767072
Knox7571138
Darke7530151
Seneca7184144
Ashland6776125
Auglaize664896
Shelby6392111
Brown627382
Crawford6159130
Mercer606793
Defiance6059102
Fulton590596
Highland587199
Madison585776
Clinton575190
Logan569092
Guernsey568467
Preble5640121
Putnam5238108
Williams516784
Perry511761
Champaign502971
Jackson495470
Ottawa477886
Coshocton468382
Morrow449056
Pike429962
Fayette420760
Adams409987
Gallia409865
Hardin409276
Van Wert362378
Henry357171
Holmes3549122
Hocking350378
Wyandot316561
Carroll295459
Paulding275145
Meigs257849
Monroe212153
Noble195646
Morgan190132
Harrison177842
Vinton161724
Unassigned05
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