Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade defended President Donald Trump's policy of separating immigrant families at the border Friday, kicking off a flurry of public outrage. But it wasn't merely the fact that Kilmeade was defending one of the more controversial aspects of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that had people incensed; it was the argument he used to justify it. The Fox & Friends co-host defended separating migrant families at the border by arguing "these aren't our kids."
"Like it or not, these are not our kids," Kilmeade said on Friday's episode of Fox & Friends. "Show them compassion, but it's not like he's doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas. These are people from another country."
Kilmeade went on to say that those advocating to keep migrant families together during detention were "saying that [migrant children] are more important than people in our country who are paying taxes and who have needs as well." He also argued that, in separating migrant children from their parents, Trump was "trying to send a message" to neighboring countries. "This is a country that has rules and laws," he said. "We just can't let everybody in that wants to be here."
Kilmeade's comments were not well received Friday, with many on social media condemning him for promoting what they deemed to be a dehumanizing rhetoric. "These are the words of Nazi enablers," one Twitter user wrote in reference to Kilmeade's remarks.
Others accused the Fox & Friends host of employing racist arguments in defense of the Trump administration. "He makes a distinction between 'our' people and kids and 'those; people and kids," one Twitter user wrote. "To Brian Kilmeade, it's ok as long as we are only doing it to 'them.' What should this remind us of?"
Amid mounting public criticism and outrage, Kilmeade moved to clarify his comments on his radio show later in the day. "All kids are important, all kids are special," Kilmeade said on Fox News Radio's Brian Kilmeade Show. "What I'm just trying to say is, in this country, when they come in, as president of the United States you can only do so much for so many."
Kilmeade argued that it was necessary to have priorities and that U.S. citizens should top migrant children. "Everybody's important, but for the president of the United States, his point seems to be that the kids in this country are his priority," Kilmeade said. "When it comes to our country, I think you have to have a priority because you can't pay for everybody [or] for everything that you want."
He later tweeted that he had "compassion for all children, especially for all the kids separated from their parents right now."
But Kilmeade further defended President Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy on Friday's Fox & Friends, arguing that "somebody has to deal with this issue."
"It wasn't President Trump's idea to have everyone leave from Central and South America in June," he said. Kilmeade then went on to attack those who offered up criticisms of Trump administration policies without proposing adequate replacements. "If you don't like his policy, he's also open to your policy, rather than just criticizing his," he said.
After intense public outrage, President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that would reportedly stop the administration's policy of separating families without ending its "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. Under the executive order, families apprehended illegally entering the country can now be held at detention centers together. It was not made immediately clear if, how, or when families already separated under the policy will be reunited. According to The Hill, thousands of children are believed to have been separated from their parents as a result of the policy.
But the administration may not actually plan to adhere to a permanent end to its policy of separating families at the border, according to one legislator. "[Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen privately told lawmakers the Administration may go back to separating children from their parents," Rep. Adam Schiff wrote Thursday in a tweet calling on Congress to ensure that didn't happen.