CNN Flat-Out Distorts Acting ICE Director’s Remarks

Last September, the Columbia Journalism Review (the preeminent journal covering the media) ran a story with headline, “Most Americans say they have lost trust in the media.” The report was based on a survey conducted by the Knight Foundation and the Gallup polling organization.

In most cases, the media don’t blatantly lie. They simply select facts that support their own biases, and omit facts that do not fit their narrative. There’s a reason why witnesses at trials are required to swear “to tell the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Much like the old baseball adage, “a half swing is a whole strike,” a half truth is the same as a whole lie.

An email that popped up in my inbox from CNN on Wednesday both piqued my interest, and affirmed the public’s mistrust of the news media. The subject line read: “CNN – Acting ICE Director: Economic aid to Central American Countries would reduce number of migrants.” The body of the email included a transcript of Acting ICE Director Mark Morgan’s interview on CNN’s Newsroom broadcast. It sounded interesting, so I read it. Twice.

The reason I read it twice was because nowhere in the transcript could I find anything that Morgan said that supported CNN’s assertion that he believes economic aid to Central American countries would reduce the number of migrants. To be fair, he didn’t say it wouldn’t; but nowhere in his remarks did Morgan say that economic aid was the cure, or even a partial cure, for the migration crisis.

The interviewer, Poppy Harlow, came loaded with a “gotcha” question for Morgan. The Trump administration recently cut economic aid to the primary migrant-sending countries, both because it was the only leverage they have to get those governments to do more to address conditions in those countries, and because the economic aid clearly isn’t helping the people who are fleeing those countries.

In the interest of presenting the whole truth, to follow are interviewer Poppy Harlow’s exact questions and Morgan’s exact answers regarding the efficacy of economic aid in reducing migration: (You can also watch the interview here.)

Harlow: You testified before the senate Homeland Security Committee back in 2016 and you said, quote, there are definite push factors, weak economies, weak government, violence, family reunification and economic quality. So you point to the economy as a big driver of those people to the United States. But as you know, just a few months ago, the Trump administration cut all economic aid to the northern triangle countries. And I just wonder if you’re worried that that is going to make the situation worse and if that has exacerbated the — the crisis. 

MORGAN: So, from a law enforcement perspective, if you look at that, with the information intelligence shows that they are coming here largely for economic equality and then to some degree for family reunification. And what we’ve shown, regardless of what’s happening or not in the northern triangle countries, the numbers continue to exceed. And they really continue to exceed because of the incentives. 

Right now — and the cartels are making sure that — that everyone in the northern triangle countries know, if you grab a child and you come to our borders, you will be allowed into the United States, and largely to remain there untouched. They know that. That’s what’s driving them to come, the overwhelming. But right now 75 percent — up to 75 percent of the people coming across are family units or unaccompanied children.

Do you see anything in Morgan’s response that indicates a belief that economic aid reduced migration? Neither did I. In fact, he is pretty emphatic that what is driving mass migration is that showing up with a child in tow pretty much guarantees that you will be allowed to “remain [here]untouched.”

Not deterred by the lack of the desired response, Harlow tries again. So, again, here is exactly what she asked and exactly what he answered:

HARLOW: Except — so I — I hear you. But when you talk about sort of what the data shows, our colleague, Jake Tapper, reported just a few months ago, based on State Department data, that in El Salvador, for example, because of the aid you had the violence go down, the homicides go down. The Global Leadership Coalition, which is retired military leaders and diplomats and members of Congress say that not only did the aid work, but it delivered a return on investment for the American taxpayer. 

Would more economic aid to the northern triangle countries be helpful to you? 

MORGAN: For — from my perspective, of course. Just like the governor of Mexico, even though the governor of Mexico, for decades, has refused to step up and do what they said, we still continue to work with them. And we should still continue to work with the — the governments of the northern triangle countries to help them in any way they can. Absolutely. 

But that’s not going to address the pull factors that our broken asylum laws are really largely responsible for these individuals coming to our country. It’s our own laws that are producing the incentives and pull factors to come.” 

This time Morgan agrees that, in the abstract, economic aid to the Northern Triangle countries would be “helpful,” and that we should “continue to work with” and “help [these countries]in any way we can.” Still, far short of a definitive declaration that doing so would stem the mass migration. In the context of his entire statement, it is clear that Morgan is saying that under the right circumstances, economic aid could be beneficial to addressing some of the economic push factors of mass migration.

But, even more importantly, in the very next breath, Morgan does make a definitive assertion. About as unambiguously as it can possibly be stated, Morgan asserts that it is the pull factors – namely our own laws – that are the driving force behind the migration crisis.

If I’m umpiring this game, I’m calling CNN’s headline a half swing and a whole lie.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    I think the transcript itself was deceptive. Grammar and punctuation is everything. I would like to actually HEAR what was said, but with all available things considered, I suspect that two minor changes in punctuation in one paragraph, Morgan’s answer becomes much clearer and not at all uncertain. Try this:

    “For — from my perspective, of course — just like the governor of Mexico, even though the governor of Mexico, for decades, has refused to step up and do what they said, we still continue to work with them. And we should still continue to work with the — the governments of the northern triangle countries to help them in any way they can, absolutely. ” And then immediately “But …”

    That doesn’t indicate he believes we should be giving them aid, just reaffirming we work with them.

    Very little of the media is journalism today. CNN is one of the worst, but far from alone. The whole process has become a system of cut and paste a word here and a word there to make a statement that will get the response they want. My newspaper editor grandfather is rolling in his grave.

  2. avatar

    So if the aid was working what started the flow of illegals here? That started long before Trump cut aid and it started when the courts started ruling that we could not detain anyone for any length of time and had to cut them loose. And how about when CNN ace reporter and carnival barker Jim Acosta used to argue with Sarah Sanders when she said there were thousands-strong caravans on the way. Not that the fact they actually showed up at the border stopped Acosta. Getting his camera time is the only thing he cares about.

    Their ratings have crashed and they have had to lay off a lot of staff. But even their lemmings have to get tired of the bs. They and MSNBC had Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff on for two years with him saying he had “seen the evidence” of Russian collusion and then the Mueller report said no, didn’t happen. And then there was their always favorite multi-indicted lawyer Michael Avenatti who they had on dozens of times. Embarrassing to say the least.

    • avatar

      The Hill MSM Alleges Today That Trump is a Crook and the OBP is 13 Points ‘Nationally” Ahead of Trump in Their Hill Bogus Polls

      They can’t possibly win in the elections, but like Hillary, they can use bogus “con” polls to back up their utter lies and deceit.

    • avatar

      insufficient evidence. not no evidence. it means there was evidence. it just didn’t clear the bar of criminality that had been set so high for 45.

      • avatar

        You’re ignoring the fact that if there had been evidence of collusion by anyone other than Trump then people could have been indicted so that excuse doesn’t wash. Didn’t happen.