One day after President Donald Trump made yet another controversial and inflammatory remark about immigrants and rape, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders jumped in to back him up. The way she did so, however, didn't exactly work out; Sanders defended Trump's immigrant rape claim by citing an article that in no way confirmed what he said.
Sanders was asked about Trump's remarks during her Friday briefing, speaking to members of the White House press corps. On Thursday, while touting the Republican tax cut package in West Virginia, Trump claimed that "yesterday, it came out where" migrant women trying to cross over the southern U.S. border were being "raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before."
He was not specific about what story he was talking about, although it was brought up in the context of a caravan of Central America asylum-seekers traveling towards the border. Sanders ended up offering an answer, although it wasn't totally specific either ― she cited a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.
"There was a story, I believe it was the LA Times, I don't have it here in front of me, that documented some of that," Sanders told the press corps. "But this is a well documented fact, that a lot of the people, I believe up to 80 percent in recent years, of women that are making that journey have been raped in that process. The president is saying that that's simply unacceptable, and it should be looked at. "
Although Sanders did not state specifically which story she meant, the Los Angeles Times has spotlighted the one it believes she was likely talking about. And there's something very notable about that article ― in addition to the fact that it's titled "These are the Central American migrants in Trump's crosshairs."
Namely, it doesn't back up Trump's central, highly controversial claim. Written by Kate Linthicum, and published on Wednesday, April 4 ― the same day that Trump claimed a story came out ― it makes no mention of record-breaking levels of rape. It does note, as immigration and humanitarian advocacy groups have documented for years, that crimes like rape, assault, and robbery are commonly experienced by people trying to cross the U.S. border.
But it also specifically identifies "smugglers, cartel members and Mexican immigration agents" as the perpetrators. Even further, it portrays the caravans as a means for women to make the trip across the border with more safety and protection than they might otherwise have, with one migrant woman, 18-year-old Ariyuri Garcia, saying it felt a little like a family.
"When they don't have something to eat, we share with them," Garcia said of the caravan, according to Linthicum. "And they share with us."
The caravan did not end up making it to the border. On Thursday, it was reported that it stalled out in Mexico, amid both logistical and safety risks to the many children making the trek, and heightened political pressure being applied by Trump.
In short, Sanders didn't get any more specific than referencing a Los Angeles Times story she claimed confirmed what Trump said. And assuming Linthicum's report really was the one she was talking about, it doesn't add up. The startling statistic she raised ― that "up to 80 percent" of migrant women in recent years have been raped during the journey ―was not included in the report either, and nowhere did it back up Trump's claim of record levels of rape.
Members of the White House press corps didn't have much time or opportunity to ask follow-up questions of any sort on Friday, however, as Sanders ended the briefing after a mere 17 minutes, a pretty short briefing by normal standards.