On the July 23 edition of The Last Word, in an apparent effort to demonize conservatives as being uninterested in protecting children who were victims of sex trafficking, Lawrence O’Donnell deliberately misinterpreted the Republican position on the 2008 immigration law signed by President Bush.
O’Donnell played a clip of Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) expressing his support for sending illegal immigrant children back to their home countries. Brooks elaborated further by saying, “Now, if in fact some are, for example, being trafficked for slavery or sex purposes, that's a different issue.” Despite this clear statement, the host of The Last Word claimed that “one of the positions that these Republicans are holding is that they want to repeal the law that President Bush signed, which is about protecting children from sex trafficking. So they want to be on record as not wanting to protect children from this kind of sex trafficking.” [MP3 audio here; video below]
Republicans, along with President Obama, have supported an amendment to that 2008 law which would expedite deportations. It is a huge stretch to claim that Republicans want to be on record as opposing protections for victims of sex trafficking, particularly when virtually the same changes to the law are supported by the Democratic president.
Liberal MSNBC contributor Richard Wolffe chimed in with a ridiculous assertion of his own: “The President is going to turn around and make some executive orders that will drive this caucus – this block of this caucus – even more off the edge of the extreme edge of Republican politics. And they've only got one place to go at that point, and that's impeachment.”
Earlier in the segment, MSNBC guest Raul Reyes implied that fear of immigrants is part of the strategy to support deportation of these unaccompanied children. He declared that “there’s some misinformation going on up here, and that is selling the idea that is conflating this border crisis with immigration reform, with fear of immigrants and all this other ugly rhetoric we’ve heard about.”
O’Donnell would do well to have discussions that at the very least correctly identify the conservative position on the immigration crisis.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
The Last Word
July 23, 2014
10:07 p.m. Eastern
RAUL REYES, attorney: Well, when we see some of these clips of the Republicans, some of these quotes look so absurd, they do seem ridiculous. But you have to remember what ultimately happens to these kids, it could be absolutely traumatic and heartbreaking. The only thing that Steve King got right is that these children are the prime age for gang recruitment. That's why they're here. One thing I believe that's being left out of this debate is that we hear so much about this misinformation campaign supposedly going on throughout Central America by the traffickers telling the kids that they can come up here and stay with a permiso and so on. There's some misinformation going on up here, and that is selling the idea that is conflating this border crisis with immigration reform, with fear of immigrants and all this other ugly rhetoric we’ve heard about. That they're carrying diseases, that they're gang members. And you know, part of it you want to just laugh if the stakes were not so high. That is what is so very tragic about it.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, host: Let's listen to something else that Congressman Brooks said today about returning these people and the question of would he return them all.
REPORTER: Would you return all of them?
MO BROOKS (R-Alabama): I don't know of any I would not return. There might be some, but I don't know of any. Now, if in fact some are, for example, are being trafficked for slavery or sex purposes, that's a different issue. But I don't know of any information that says that this 60,000 to 90,000 illegal alien children mass that has come to America are coming here to be sex slaves or something of that nature.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Now, Richard, one of the positions that these Republicans are holding is that they want to repeal the law that President Bush signed, which is about protecting children from sex trafficking. So they want to be on record as not wanting to protect children from this kind of sex trafficking.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC contributor: Right. But, also let's just remember the phrase that he repeated three times in one sound bite, I don't know. So he is pronouncing on policy and declaring the status of thousands – tens of thousands of children by saying, I don’t know, but I'm still going to hold a position any way. We think this is extreme. This debate is gonna get even more extreme, because there is no deal to be done. The President is going to turn around and make some executive orders that will drive this caucus – this block of this caucus – even more off the edge of the extreme edge of Republican politics. And they've only got one place to go at that point, and that's impeachment. So this debate will get more intense. There's no rational argument that you can have with that kind of politics.
O’DONNELL: Raul, normally the picture we're seeing here is one where there would be a deal to be done. A president says let's do $3.7 billion. The Senate says let’s do $2.7 billion. The House says let’s do $1.7 billion. And actually it’s not that far apart, because they're talking about spending the money much faster in the House, so actually their spending rate is similar to President Obama's suggestion. That's the kind of stuff that used to produce a deal somewhere between those two end points of those numbers.
REYES: Yes, Mr. O’Donnell, but unfortunately, the key word is normally. This is – these are House Republicans who are so entrenched with these far right positions on immigration. I agree with you that they are backing themselves into a corner. What I think they're going to do ultimately is they're going to do the same thing they did with the broader immigration reform debate. They're going to raise a lot of objections, throw a wrench into constructive proposals, amp up the rhetoric, and in the end do nothing. Because their whole plan, I think that's a tactical decision to let this problem fester, because the longer this goes on, the longer they can put it on President Obama. And what it's doing. The other effect it's doing – the other effect it’s been having that's been destructive, this could have been the time when the President was really making his case for executive action and laying out why he needed to do something for the undocumented population already here. Instead we're caught up in this debate. Which was really already decided with the 2008 law by Congress which in fact was a re-authorization, I believe twice, of a law going back to 2002, the Homeland Security Act.