President Donald Trump claimed that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” were part of the migrant caravan heading for the United States-Mexico border without offering any evidence.
“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy [sic]. Must change laws!”
The tweet came after Fox News host Pete Hegseth quoted Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales saying that his administration arrested “over 100 ISIS fighters” in an unrelated story. Hegseth suggested some fighters may have infiltrated the caravan, but conceded that “it hasn’t been verified.”
The caravan, which has swelled to about 7,200 people from Central America, is 1,140 miles away from the nearest border crossing in Texas.
Vice President Mike Pence backed Trump's claim, saying it was “inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border.”
“In the last fiscal year, [the U.S.] apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as other than Mexico — that means from the Middle East region," he told The Washington Post's Robert Costa.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that the administration “absolutely” has evidence of Middle Easterners in the caravan, "and we know this is a continuing problem."
But Fox News host Shep Smith admitted that “Fox News knows of no evidence to suggest the president is accurate on that matter. And the president has offered no evidence to support what he has said.”
The left-wing news monitor Media Matters accused Trump of weaponizing racism to help his party in the upcoming midterm elections.
“The president’s casual lie that terrorists have infiltrated the caravan will likely become a regular talking point as Trump attempts to weaponize racist fears of migrants in order to get his voters to the polls,” wrote Media Matters' Matt Gertz. “Fox and the president are teaming up, terrorizing his voters in an effort to prevent a historic wipeout in the midterms and preserve the Republican congressional majorities.”
Many cable news journalists reached a similar conclusion:
[Image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons]