During a speech awash in horrific oversimplifications in service of depicting America as the One Great Country, Donald Trump offered a particularly grim anecdote about the human cost of the opioid epidemic during Tuesday night’s State of the Union.
As Trump told it, an Albuquerque police officer was on duty last year when he encountered a homeless woman, pregnant and addicted to heroin. He proceeded to use a photo of his own family to guilt her into giving up her baby, which his own young wife agreed to adopt as her own.
The whole story, via Trump’s prepared remarks, went like this:
We see a vivid expression of this truth in the story of the Holets family of New Mexico. Ryan Holets is 27 years old, and an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He is here tonight with his wife Rebecca. Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.
In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: “You will do it — because you can.” He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.
Ryan and Rebecca: You embody the goodness of our Nation. Thank you, and congratulations.
That really is an incredible story—one that’s been told by CNN, Trump’s least favorite cable news network. The child’s mother told the network of her reaction to the officer telling her she was going to “kill your baby” with drugs: “I was like, how dare you judge me. You have no idea how hard this is,” she told CNN. “I know what a horrible person I am and what a horrible situation I’m in.”
The network notes that the woman, Crystal Champ, remained homeless and addicted to drugs at the time of the story. Champ was also given up for adoption as a child.
So it was more than a little bit jarring to hear no mention of the plight of the woman—who remains on the streets without a lifeline—and instead see journalists and politicians praise the selflessness of the couple, rather than turn an eye to the system of interlocking factors that allows such conditions to persist.
Although Trump also paid lip service to fighting the epidemic with drug treatment programs, the outlook for Champ is grim. But that just doesn’t fit into a sound bite so neatly.