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Images of border patrol agents pursuing Haitian migrants on horseback this week sparked a media furor when reporters mistakenly claimed the agents were using whips to subdue the migrants.
The ensuing outrage prompted the Biden administration to launch an investigation this week into the tactics used by mounted border patrol agents, whose alleged actions Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said “horrified” him.
But the viral images, along with a story published by the El Paso Times reporting that one border patrol agent “swung his whip menacingly” at a migrant, created a misleading narrative about the situation — one that several Democratic lawmakers amplified through statements of outrage.
Video appears to show the agents with nothing but reins and tethering ropes called lariats in their hands, and even Mayorkas noted that border patrol agents on horseback typically use longer reins to control their horses.
Nonetheless, the media’s intense focus on whether agents used whips at the border has provided an opening to talk about the current migration crisis that the Biden administration and other Democrats have happily embraced.
More than 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, are waiting under one bridge in Del Rio, Texas, as they stream across the border and surrender to law enforcement in the hope of being processed and released into the United States.
The bottleneck in Del Rio is another black eye for the Biden administration’s border policies, which critics have blamed for a massive influx of illegal migration starting earlier this year. Migrants seeking to enter the U.S. overwhelmed facilities and created conditions not unlike those that landed former President Donald Trump at the center of fierce controversy in 2018 and 2019.
But the media’s fixation on photos that don’t actually portray wrongdoing is just the latest example of reporters whipping up outrage over narratives that later prove to be misleading or downright false.
Earlier this month, for example, reporters and left-leaning commentators fanned the flames of indignation over a local news report from Oklahoma in which a doctor was quoted claiming that rural hospitals had become overrun by patients self-medicating with livestock versions of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that is also used to treat humans.
Ivermectin has become the object of unproven speculation about its ability to treat COVID-19 symptoms. Because some anti-vaccination advocates have championed ivermectin, critics on the Left have characterized any interest in the drug as a result of unscientific ignorance.
The media quickly jumped on the Oklahoma story — especially after Rolling Stone magazine wrote its own article about the report without contacting any of the hospitals supposedly overwhelmed by the overdose cases.
Left-leaning pundits including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow helped amplify the story and drive coverage characterizing those who have expressed interest in ivermectin as unintelligent.
The story, however, turned out to be false. A hospital that worked with the doctor quoted in the original story said he had not worked there in months and that regardless, they had not received a single patient sickened by taking ivermectin formulated for animals. Data showed that only a few hundred patients reported taking too much ivermectin in the month of August — not enough to overwhelm entire states’ hospital systems.
The media also leaned into a narrative they found convenient for months regarding a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden that was discovered during the 2020 race.
The New York Post first reported contents from the laptop, which included emails related to Hunter Biden’s business activity in Ukraine, connections to his father, and illicit images associated with his former addiction.
A number of larger outlets reported that stories about the laptop and its contents were the products of Russian disinformation.
Twitter helped suppress the spread of the New York Post story by blocking the ability of users to share a link to it — something to which Republicans objected as an unfair boost to Joe Biden’s campaign. The Federal Election Commission ruled last week that Twitter did nothing wrong.
But the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop have since been confirmed as authentic by the same outlets that dismissed them. Politico, for example, reported on Tuesday that it had corroborated at least two noteworthy emails, including one related to Ukraine, months after it reported that experts believed the emails to be disinformation.
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Original Author: Sarah Westwood