President Trump woke up this morning and decided it was going to be a good day to talk about the border by spreading an extremely thinly sourced report in the conservative Washington Examiner that migrants were bringing “prayer rugs” with them and claiming a new caravan is on the way.
All of this is certainly easier for the president to grapple with than the BuzzFeed News investigation published late Thursday night that alleges the president instructed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress. But let’s not think about that, instead, let’s talk about migrants!
The Examiner story Trump is referring to here is an extremely sketchy “report” that cites an interview with a single rancher who claims to have found “prayer rugs” on their property in recent months. Here’s the lede of the story (emphasis mine):
Ranchers and farmers near the U.S.-Mexico border have been finding prayer rugs on their properties in recent months, according to one rancher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by cartels who move the individuals.
The mats are pieces of carpet that those of the Muslim faith kneel on as they worship.
“There’s a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico,” the rancher said. “People, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that. That’s what’s really scary. You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”
Does that sound like bullshit to you? Because it sure sounds like bullshit to me! Some rancher maybe found a scrap of carpet on their land and immediately assumed MUSLIMS, right-wing shorthand for TERRORISTS, and here we are. The rancher also sounded the alarm about migrants apparently arriving in her backyard from all over the world, including “Czechoslovakians.”
To support her claims, the Examiner cited a CBP statement that said the organization had apprehended people from seven different countries trying to cross one section of the southwest border (five of those countries were Latin American, the other two were India and China).
As multiple commentators pointed out, the “prayer rugs” conspiracy theory has been going around since at least 2014, when then-Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst suggested Muslim extremists were crossing the border and just like, leaving their prayer rugs around. The weird theory that terrorists are illegally crossing the border and leaving a trail of rugs even made it to Hollywood, which, cool!
The Examiner has photos of the rancher (not showing her face) but includes no evidence of those “prayer rugs.”
Still, it’s fitting for a president who’s also trying to stir up more paranoia about another migrant caravan:
Considering how well this utterly racist line worked in the midterms, maybe the president should try something new.