Update (12/18/18): This piece has been updated with an additional example.
Following reports of the December 8 death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died after being taken into Border Patrol custody, high-level White House officials and prominent right-wing media personalities exploited her death to advocate for President Donald Trump’s desired border wall while accusing her father of causing the tragedy.
On December 13, The Washington Post reported that Caal Maquin “died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.” She did not receive medical treatment until an hour and a half after it was requested. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed that Caal Maquin “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days” before her death -- but this was quickly disputed by her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz. According to a statement from his lawyers, Caal Cruz “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." The family wants an investigation into Caal Maquin's death.
The Post first resported Caal Maquin’s death several days after it happened. But once the story broke on December 13, right-wing media personalities and major Trump administration officials immediately began exploiting her death or claiming that her father had caused it:
Fox News host Sean Hannity: “A wall can prevent these types of heart-breaking stories.”
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller during a Fox appearance: “If you want to stop the horrors on the northward trek, ... then, for the love of God, fund the border wall.”
MSNBC contributor and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: Caal Maquin’s death “is about the most complete argument for building a long, strong” border wall.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Fox appearance: “This family chose to cross illegally.”
Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz: “That should be the message, don't make this journey, it will kill you.”
CNN political commentator and BlazeTV host Ben Ferguson: “This is child abuse in its worst form. … This is sick.”
Fox News guest and Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto: “No one’s pointing the finger at this father, they’re all pointing the finger at the Border Patrol agents, and that’s just disgusting.”
One America News host Graham Ledger: Caal Maquin was a “seven-year-old illegal” whose parents should be “investigated for probable child abuse.”
One America News host Liz Wheeler: Caal Maquin’s father “forced her to undergo the dangerous journey to the U.S. border and didn’t feed her or give her water for days and days on end.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Now they’re, ‘Oh, it’s Trump’s fault that a seven-year-old girl died after her father dragged her across a desert for seven days.’ That’s Trump’s fault?”
Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro: “The person responsible for all of this is the father who didn't feed the child.”
Video by Leanne Naramore