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  • CNN and MSNBC downplay a call at Trump's rally to shoot migrants, likening it to HBO's Veep

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After President Donald Trump laughed at a suggestion made at his campaign rally that migrants crossing the border should be shot, CNN and MSNBC both aired a clip from HBO’s political satire Veep that appeared to trivialize the dangers of the president’s words that could potentially incite violence.

    At a May 8 campaign rally in Panama City Beach, FL, Trump noted that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to use weapons to stop migrants and asked the rowdy crowd, “How do you stop these people?”

    “Shoot them!” an attendee yelled, and the crowd laughed and cheered.

    Trump also laughed before saying, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

    While the president stopped short of explicitly supporting the suggestion to open fire on migrants at the border, The Washington Post noted, “His joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.” The May 8 rally comes less than a month after a border militia group calling itself the United Constitutional Patriots drew national attention for reportedly detaining “hundreds” of migrants, including several children, at gunpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border. The group’s leader was later arrested by the FBI on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. He had previously claimed that the group was training to assassinate prominent Democratic leaders. According to a police report obtained by The Young Turks, one militia member asked why the group was “just apprehending” migrants against their will “and not lining them up and shooting them,” adding, “We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.” The police report was filed by a fellow militia member who felt he had witnessed “terroristic threats” among the group.

    But some media coverage of the president's rally ignored this serious potential for violence against migrants. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchors John Berman and Alisyn Camerota aired the footage from Trump’s rally, immediately followed by a scene from HBO’s Veep, an American political satire that has drawn attention for its chaotic plotline that appears to be strikingly similar to the politics of today. In the clip, a presidential candidate is giving a speech when an attendee suggests that people should shoot immigrants, to which he seemingly agrees. When the clip finished, Berman laughed at the comparison, saying, “Veep was shot months ago and there’s almost no discernible difference between the events.” 

    From the May 9 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    On MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber, host Ari Melber began his segment by quoting poet Oscar Wilde that, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” adding that this is “clearly the case on HBO’s hit political series Veep.” Melber then aired the same Veep clip and hosted the shows creators to discuss their method behind writing Veep. The 10-minute segment focused far more on Veep’s similarities to contemporary politics than on the harmful impact of Trump’s words.

    From the May 9 edition of MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber:

  • Lou Dobbs has been trying to get Trump to fire Kirstjen Nielsen from DHS

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 7, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from her role in the Trump administration after weeks of Fox Business host Lou Dobbs urging President Donald Trump to fire her.

    In her time with the Trump administration, Nielsen became the face of many of Trump’s most hardline anti-immigration policies, including infamously separating children from their families and subsequently failing to reunite many of them, destroying families and leaving children traumatized. CBS reported that her ousting was part of a “massive immigration overhaul, spearheaded by Stephen Miller,” one of Trump’s most extreme advisers on immigration.

    Nielsen’s decision to leave the White House comes as many are questioning the role and influence Fox has over Trump’s decision-making. It has been widely reported that Trump values Dobbs’ opinion -- according to The New Yorker, Dobbs has even “been patched into Oval Office meetings, by speakerphone, to offer policy advice.”

    Dobbs has been urging Trump to fire Nielsen for weeks, often calling her a “failure” and criticizing her leadership for what he perceives as not doing enough to enforce the president’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. It’s clear from Dobbs’ comments that he strongly supports Trump’s anti-immigration agenda and believes Nielsen has been an obstacle impeding Trump’s ability to secure the border:

    Dobbs criticized Nielsen for referring to asylum seekers as “vulnerable populations and migrants” instead of more derogatory terms. Dobbs asked his guest, “Does language matter anymore? Doesn’t she understand what the impact of that is?” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/3/19]

    Discussing a conversation he had with Nielsen, Dobbs said that she seems “impeded by the system” and that “that government is not moving with urgency at all.” His guest, Fox contributor Ed Rollins, said that “she needs to be tough, needs to crack the whip, she needs to implement what the president has talked about.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/3/19]

    Dobbs claimed the “Department of Homeland Security’s failure to gain control of the border crisis is the result of the failed and ineffective leadership” of Nielsen. He also criticized her for “only now” asking for help when Trump issued “that national emergency declaration six weeks ago.” He also complained about her decision to refer to migrants as vulnerable and not “illegal immigrants or illegal aliens.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/2/19]

    Dobbs criticized Nielsen for describing the border crisis as a “system-wide breakdown” of “the system she is in charge of.” Dobbs added that “she appears to be more a part of the problem than the solution.” He also said that the “president’s strong stand to secure the border” is in “contrast to that of his secretary of Homeland Security,” criticizing her for waiting “six weeks after president had declared a national emergency on our border with Mexico before she sought authorities and resources to deal with the crisis.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/2/19]

    Dobbs claimed that Nielsen is “flailing, and her department appears utterly paralyzed under ineffectual leadership.” He added that she is “so desperate that she’s trying to raise, it seems, a posse of DHS employee volunteers to help secure the border.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/29/19]

    Dobbs complained that undocumented immigrants are “being allowed in by Kirstjen Nielsen and the DHS that has decided that they are there to tell you about how difficult their job is, instead of getting it done.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/28/19]

    Dobbs asserted that Nielsen “obviously doesn’t know what she is doing” and called her handling of the border “quite a spectacle.” He called it “incredible to have the people who are responsible for securing that borders crying about the fact that” the border is in “meltdown.” He asked his guest, Bristol County, MA, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, “Why in the world is Kirstjen Nielsen not fixing it?” Hodgson pointed out that the “she is trying to fix it” but “the problem is not Kirstjen Nielsen, it’s Congress.” Dobbs responded by asking, “What would the folks in your county say if you said, ‘I'm trying to enforce the law, I’m trying to take charge.’ This just isn’t acceptable at any point. … It’s just preposterous to me what we’re accepting here.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/28/19]

    Dobbs said that the border is an “utter disaster” and complained that “we have DHS officials walking around whining about having to protect the border,” adding that it’s “absolutely dereliction of their duty.” He also said Nielsen is “an example of someone who is in over their head.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/27/19]

    Dobbs said that the Department of Homeland Security “is thumbing their nose” at Trump and “looks like a complete joke.” He added that Nielsen is “utterly unqualified for the job.” He concluded by saying, “Kirstjen Nielsen has done everything but rejoin the Obama mantra of ‘strategic patience.’ My God, it’s a disgrace.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/27/19]

    Dobbs claimed DHS is “surrendering our border” and Nielsen is “whining about the inability of her department to protect the homeland despite the president’s best efforts.” Dobbs hit Nielsen for her past, saying that her “most notable career accomplishments were serving in several staff roles in the George W. Bush administration.” Dobbs added that “Secretary Nielsen is in way over her head” and claimed that the “crisis on our southern border” shows “the inability -- or the refusal -- of DHS to secure that border.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/27/19]

    Dobbs told his guest that “when the DHS secretary cannot manage the system, cannot defend the border, then it has to be a matter of political will on her part.” He added that Nielsen is “failing at her job.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/18/19]

    Dobbs asked Rollins, “Why doesn’t he fire Kirstjen Nielsen? Why doesn’t he fire his secretary?” He added that “she’s supposed to be guarding that border, and I don’t want to hear about how tough it is.” Dobbs concluded by warning Trump “if the president doesn’t start firing people for incompetence and absolutely just anti-Trump conduct -- I mean, this goes beyond not doing the job, they’re fighting this president.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/6/19]

    While discussing Nielsen in December, Dobbs told his guest that “I personally think ... up until very recently, she had to be almost forced to carry out her duties as secretary of Homeland Security. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/20/18]

    Dobbs asked his guest if Nielsen is “strong enough to deal with this crisis.” His guest, former acting ICE Director Tom Homan, began to defend her and the president before Dobbs cut her off and said, “I’m asking you a very simple question, Tom.” Homan again said she is “strong enough to do it” with the president, and Dobbs cut him off again to emphasize that “I have no question about the president. My question is about his secretary of Homeland Security.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 10/30/18]