CNN Accused of “Staging” Footage of Illegals Crossing Rio Grande

CNN Accused of “Staging” Footage of Illegals Crossing Rio Grande
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The progressive publican The American Prospect alleges that CNN aired a staged crossing of illegal aliens crossing the Rio Grande.

CNN’s report in question featured national correspondent Ed Lavandera, who narrates “That’s when we stumble across a group of migrants loading into a raft” as it plays out on the screen. “The Rio Grande Valley has been ground zero for the latest surge in migration and here you see the operation unfolding right in front of us” he explains.

While it’s nice of CNN to report on the border crisis – that particular bit may have been orchestrated. As the Prospect‘s Marcia Brown notes:

The scene may not be all that it appears to be. Immigrant rights advocates and others claim that the footage was staged, potentially with the cooperation of the Border Patrol. CNN was warned that the clip appeared to be a fabrication before it aired, but the network decided to run it anyway. A similar clip that appears to show the same or a similar trafficking incident from another angle was shared across right-wing media and even linked to on the social media accounts of members of Congress. This clip went viral among immigration opponents, and is helping to fuel the story of an out-of-control border. The video—legitimized on mainstream media—easily fit into that narrative. Now a series of charges and counter-charges have demonstrated the radioactive politics of immigration.

There are the following red flags:

  • In the CNN footage, the smuggler leading the boat wears fatigues and a black ski mask. Smugglers typically attempt to blend in with the migrants, to avoid more severe punishment should they be caught.
  • Smugglers also don’t normally provide face masks and life vests, nor ferry six boatloads of people across in broad daylight.
  • Migrants don’t typically line up single file along the shore to cross.
  • The Guardian reported that the area of the river where the footage was taken can only be accessed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection–controlled boat slips.
  • At one point in the footage from the shore, the men behind the camera have a conversation. One person says to the other, “Do you ever hook these guys up?” and another person responds, “Yeah. Two or three of ’em. They’re Grade A.” A former Border Patrol agent comments “What I hear is these men possibly talking about paying this smuggler off to gather a bunch of unsuspecting migrants and have them cross in a particular place in order to get this shot.”

CNN responded in their newsletter to say that they “obviously did not stage the crossing,” and then blamed right wing outlets for picking up the story (which originated with a left-wing outlet). CNN also notes that Customs and Border Patrol issued a statement “categorically den[ying] any suggestion that the United States Border Patrol staged a migrant crossing for a media story.”

David Dayen, the executive editor of The Prospect, says CNN ignored his inquiries for a week before accusing him of misinformation in their newsletter.

While this particular crossing may have been staged, the border crisis remains real nonetheless, and a problem that the Biden administration can’t be bothered to describe as such.

The question then becomes: with a crisis this severe, why would fake reporting even be necessary? Laziness?

Matt Palumbo is the author of Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New YorkDebunk This: Shattering Liberal Lies, and Spygate

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