CBS ‘Evening News’ Mocks Border Security; Makes Up Facts

Steve Hartman, CBS On Friday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Steve Hartman made fun of Texan Robert Havercamp, who helps monitor border cameras via the internet as part of the virtual border fence: "Whether you think I'm naive or he's paranoid, this is a story that will astound you regardless...It's about how concerned citizens like Robert Havercamp, a truck driver from south Texas, are taking on illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from the comfort of their own computers...Although it's hard to say exactly how much safer he's really making us...Paranoid? Maybe. Patriotic? Unabashedly."

In addition to mocking Havercamp’s efforts, Hartman criticized the funding for the virtual fence program: "Donald Reay oversees the project...He runs the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, which got a $2 million grant to put up the cameras and run the web site for a year...And yet, so far the program has only produced eight arrests and four drug seizures. Not much bang for the buck." Following his report, Hartman remarked: "After the grant expires, the coalition hopes to keep the site up by selling ads, and since it is a virtual stakeout, the first sponsor they're hoping to get is Dunkin’ Donuts." Anchor Katie Couric chimed in that people like Havercamp could be rewarded for their work with: "Maybe a free doughnut at some point?"

However, NewsBusters called up Mr. Reay and asked him if he had a donut discussion with Hartman. Reay replied: "None. It never came up. The truth of the matter is that most of the towns that we serve don’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts....In El Paso, Dunkin’ Donuts went broke here. Sorry, it wasn’t cute." Reay said the interview wasn’t that jokey: "We had a very serious discussion of close to three hours with him" and said "considering some of the publicity we’ve gotten, it’s not that bad." He tried to persuade Hartman of the seriousness of fighting crime on the border with concerned citizens. Reay also said "The Daily Show" has been calling around, trying to do a segment. Apparently, there’s nothing but comedy in border vigilance.

Prior to speculating on Havercamp’s paranoia, Hartman asked: "When you see video of illegal immigrants coming into this country, what do you immediately assume they're carrying? What’s in the bags?" Havercamp began to reply: "I don't know what's in those bags but there’s a good strong possibility there’s-" Hartman interrupted: "That it's clothes." Havercamp responded: "It could be clothes, it could be marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine. Or it could be bits and pieces of a bomb. We were invaded in 2001. Do you want that again?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

6:55PM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: Who's guarding our border with Mexico tonight? Virtually anyone who wants. Here's Steve Hartman with tonight's 'Assignment America.'

STEVE HARTMAN: When you see video of illegal immigrants coming into this country, what do you immediately assume they're carrying? What's in the bags?

ROBERT HAVERCAMP: I don't know what's in those bags but there's a good strong possibility there's-

HARTMAN: That it's clothes.

HAVERCAMP: It could be clothes, it could be marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine. Or it could be bits and pieces of a bomb. We were invaded in 2001. Do you want that again?

HARTMAN: Whether you think I'm naive or he's paranoid, this is a story that will astound you regardless.

HAVERCAMP: Somebody's got to catch these people.

HARTMAN: It's about how concerned citizens like Robert Havercamp, a truck driver from south Texas, are taking on illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from the comfort of their own computers.

HAVERCAMP: All I can do is report what I see.

HARTMAN: On the internet you can now monitor 15 live cameras hidden on utility poles and pointed at various sections of the Texas/Mexico border. If you see something-

HAVERCAMP: Right here, see the two people walking?

HARTMAN: -you write something.

HAVERCAMP: This is what I'm going to do.

HARTMAN: Your report goes to a sheriff's deputy, who in turn dispatches the appropriate authorities.

HAVERCAMP: Every now and then I pull one of those all nighters' because the bad guy's going to wait until late at night to do anything-

HARTMAN: And if you went to sleep-

HAVERCAMP: They could easily get into the country.

HARTMAN: That's just a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

HAVERCAMP: No, it's dedication.

DONALD REAY: Yes, we call those folks virtual deputies.

HARTMAN: Donald Reay oversees the project.

REAY: This is a virtual wall.

HARTMAN: He runs the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, which got a $2 million grant to put up the cameras and run the web site for a year. It's been a couple months and already 35,000 people have registered as virtual deputies. This is just some of what they've seen. And yet, so far the program has only produced eight arrests and four drug seizures. Not much bang for the buck.

DONALD REAY: But I am so convinced that this is money well spent. The potential is unlimited.

HARTMAN: Robert sure isn't ready to give up. He dispatches deputies almost daily. Although it's hard to say exactly how much safer he's really making us.

HAVERCAMP: What I saw that day was a lot of buzzards circling and going right down to the ground right here.

HARTMAN: Okay.

HAVERCAMP: And that's telling me there's something dead there.

HARTMAN: It could be a rabbit.

HAVERCAMP: It could be an animal of any sort. It could be a person.

HARTMAN: Paranoid? Maybe. Patriotic? Unabashedly. After the grant expires, the coalition hopes to keep the site up by selling ads, and since it is a virtual stakeout, the first sponsor they're hoping to get is Dunkin' Donuts.

COURIC: Meanwhile, do these people get paid anything if they do see something and notify authorities?

HARTMAN: No, they're thinking of maybe sending out, like, a little certificate, but as of right now, you don't even get a thank you.

COURIC: Maybe a free doughnut at some point?

HARTMAN: At some point.

COURIC: In the future.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC