With a whole news cycle of parsing—and scolding—the media’s interpretation of President Trump’s reference to some immigrants as “animals” behind us, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders came out swinging on Thursday, accusing the press of willfully misconstruing Trump’s remarks in order to “defend MS-13,” the brutally violent gang.
Some backstory: at a roundtable yesterday, Trump heard a California sheriff talking about not being able to tell ICE about gang members in her community. The sheriff mentioned MS-13 at one point. When she was done, Trump said, “We’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” This was widely interpreted as Trump calling some immigrants “animals,” which led some of the worst bad-faith actors on the internet to accuse the media of taking Trump out of context.
Let’s set aside the fact that calling anyone an “animal”—even someone in a gang—is a noxious, loaded thing to do. If there was any misinterpretation on the media’s part about the broader context of Trump’s remarks, they could be forgiven, since “animals” is exactly on par with the way Trump has communicated his disdain for undocumented immigrants living in this country. He’s talked with disgust about “breeding” in sanctuary cities—a racist dogwhistle likening those offered sanctuary there to feral dogs or worse. He’s characterized large swathes of the world as made up of “shithole” countries (namely, places where the people are not white), and called back to when he painted Mexicans as “rapists” and drug dealers. And he’s approved policy after policy that shows just what he thinks of all immigrants, all while peddling constant misinformation about MS-13 to stir up fear.
Nevertheless, Sanders was clearly prepared to push the party line. “If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13, they’re more than welcome to,” she said on Thursday, all fired up.
Sanders then went on to describe the “heinous acts” and graphic violence that MS-13 gang members have carried out:
It took an animal to stab a man 100 times, decapitate him, and rip his heart out; it took an animal to beat a woman they were sex trafficking 28 times, indenting part of her body; and it took an animal to kidnap, drug, and rape a 14 year old Houston girl. Frankly, I think the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough.