(CBS) — After the president referred to deported members of a violent Central American gang as “animals” last week, the White House is now digging in its heels regarding the comments some found extremely offensive.
In a press release that doubled as a type of FAQ published on its blog Monday, the White House listed the “whats” and “whys” of calling alleged members of the La Mara Salvatrucha gang “animals.”
In the release titled “What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13,” the White House gives examples of criminal acts in which the gang was allegedly involved.
WHAT: The violent animals of MS-13 have committed heinous, violent attacks in communities across America,” the release begins, detailing accusations of murder, decapitation and dismemberment of the gang’s victims from Maryland to Texas and New York.
“Nearly 40 percent of all murders in Suffolk County, New York between January 2016 and June 2017 were tied to MS-13,” the post reads.
As to the “why,” the post continues, “MS-13 is a transnational gang which follows the motto of ‘kill, rape, control’ by committing shocking acts of violence in an attempt to instill fear and gain control.”
The post, which mostly recycles Trump’s previous rhetoric, comes after his controversial comments last week.
At an immigration round table where sanctuary cities were a main topic of discussion, Trump said of people being deported from the U.S., “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
CNN was quick to accuse news outlets of taking the president’s comments out of context, saying he was referring specifically to MS-13 gang members but the editing of the video by some news organizations made it seem like it was a wholesale condemnation of deportees.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the president, himself, clarified the comments, saying he was referring specifically to MS-13 gang members.
Still, some have suggested the fact that Trump, who kicked off his campaign by calling undocumented immigrants criminals and rapists, is the only context needed.
The Washington Post called the White House’s use of the term “animals” a “slippery slope,” saying it’s the latest in a pattern of messages targeting immigrants as threats to the country:
“In both literal and figurative terms, the gang is used as a large bucket into which people and groups are placed for political purposes even when it may not be an accurate descriptor. And that’s part of the challenge with Trump’s embrace of casting MS-13 as ‘animals’: Some of those ‘animals’ aren’t even members of MS-13.”
The Post analyzed one of Trump’s speeches from last year, arguing that the president’s rhetorical leaps of logic conflate the issues of immigration and criminality.
Critics of the president have pointed out that he is using the gang to paint all immigrants as criminals, while he failed to condemn white nationalists in the past, going so far as saying there were “some very fine people on both sides” at a Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.
Often absent from the discussion of MS-13 is the fact that the gang was actually started in Los Angeles, with undocumented migrants from El Salvador becoming “hardened” in the American criminal justice system at the height of civil wars back home, Vox reported.
Some have also criticized the president of not informing himself on the issue of gangs and why some desperate youth join criminal groups. ProPublica and New York Magazine earlier this year revealed an investigation of one teen’s struggles trying to get out of MS-13.
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