Heart-breaking photo of dead migrants comes amid ‘blackout on press access’

Posted at 11:09 PM, Jun 25, 2019

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

I know it is tempting to look away. I have been trying. I have been trying to avoid the stories about the deplorable conditions at the camps near the southern border. Babies taking care of babies. Migrants pleading for help. Maybe you have been trying to avoid it too. But we can’t.

The humanitarian crisis at the border is back at the top of the national news agenda. I have been noticing this all month long — an increase in stories and columns and segments about the situation — and now it’s No. 1 for several reasons. Let’s take a closer look…

A dead kid and her dad

This photograph of a father and daughter who drowned while crossing the Rio Grande on Sunday was “captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada,” according to The AP. It “highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.”

CNN’s team writes: “The photo is haunting, a vivid reminder of the danger many face when they try to cross into the United States. It shows the human toll of a crisis at the border that’s often debated with abstract statistics and detached policy arguments.” And it evokes memories “of a 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey. The iconic 2015 image of the drowned toddler lying in the sand continues to stir discussion over policies toward migrants.”

“This picture came out now for a reason.”

That’s what Chris Cuomo said on his CNN program Tuesday evening. He noted that there “was a debate within news organizations — whether to show it — [and] that’s not unusual. We’re worried about the startling effect of this grisly reality.” But the reality is, “this is terrible. Whether you’re a parent, or you just have blood pumping through their veins.”

“I can’t even look at it, Chris,” Don Lemon said at the end of Cuomo’s show.

“You must,” Cuomo said.

What are we NOT seeing?

There’s been a “blackout on press access” at detention facilities, WaPo’s Paul Farhi wrote on Tuesday. So Americans are “largely in the dark about conditions in government facilities designed to handle migrants who have crossed the border. Photographs and TV images are rare and often dated. Rarer still are interviews with federal agency managers and employees or with the children themselves.” Read Farhi’s full story here…

Relying on second-hand reports

“The gut-wrenching descriptions we have of conditions at some border patrol facilities have been coming in, for the most part, from lawyers who are able to access these facilities,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said Tuesday evening.

“As a rule,” she asserted, “they do not talk to the press about their visits. They’re used in ongoing litigation and legal matters.” But “this past week they have so shocked and so disgusted by what they found that they decided that they needed, for the first time, to go public and sound the alarm.” And those accounts are a big reason why this subject is back on TV screens. Some other reasons: Ongoing litigation… Progressive activism… Tuesday’s resignation of the acting border patrol boss, which led the broadcast nightly newscasts… And Tuesday night’s House passage of a new border aid bill…

Trump deflects…

When CNN’s Abby Phillip asked Trump if he’s concerned about the conditions at the border, Trump said, “Yes I am, I’m very concerned. And they’re much better than under President Obama by far.”

He also said the kids are being treated “very well,” which prompted Fox’s Shep Smith to re-read the reporting from Clint, TX. Mediaite has the video…

Soldiers rescue woman and child on US-Mexico border

This story, from CNN’s Ryan Browne, is a timely reminder about what Americans are doing to reduce the suffering, amid all the disturbing headlines: “Two US soldiers tasked with helping safeguard the US-Mexico border rescued a woman and a her child Thursday, saving the migrant family from drowning as they attempted to cross into the country, the US military said Tuesday…”

Mueller time

A 9 p.m. surprise: The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees announced that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify publicly “following a subpoena.” The date: Wednesday, July 17. Wall to wall TV coverage? Of course. As CNN’s Jeremy Herb said, “Mueller’s testimony is poised to be the most-anticipated congressional hearing in years…”

>> Reminder: Mueller said on May 29 that “any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report….”

Trump is calling Maria Bartiromo

Fox said Tuesday night that Maria Bartiromo will be interviewing Trump on the phone on Wednesday morning. It “will air live on FBN’s Mornings with Maria in the 8 a.m. ET hour,” per Fox…

Grisham in charge

Stephanie Grisham “has been with team Trump longer than anyone currently in the White House, with the exception of Dan Scavino, both of whom started on the Trump campaign in 2015,” CNN’s Kate Bennett wrote on Tuesday. And now Grisham — Melania Trump’s spokeswoman — will be both W.H. press secretary AND comms director. She is starting right away, with Trump about to fly to Japan for the G20. Read Bennett’s full story here…

>> NYT’s Katie Rogers wrote: “Grisham will give the First Lady a new window into a West Wing where the President’s kids have an outsized influence…”

107 days

Wednesday will be day 107 without a televised White House press briefing. Will Grisham resume the briefings in the weeks ahead?


— Day one of #DemDebate season! The NYT’s Michael Grynbaum has a preview of NBC’s plans here. I’ll be out with a special pre-debate edition of the newsletter on Wednesday evening…

— The backers of a new proposal to establish a Fallen Journalists Memorial in DC will hold a 10 a.m. ET event at the National Press Club…

— Mark Zuckerberg will speak with Cass Sunstein at the Aspen Ideas Festival at 4:30 p.m. ET…

“You’d better not say I was here”

Oliver Darcy emails: Some reporters appeared embarrassed to have attended Monday night’s goodbye party for Sarah Sanders. Speaking to the NYT, one reporter said, “You’d better not say I was here.” Another echoed, “Me either.” Which, as The Daily Beast’s Max Tani said, is a “lame response.” Indeed, if these reporters were uncomfortable attending the event, then why did they go to begin with? But as CJR’s Amanda Darrach wrote here, some W.H. reporters justified the schmoozing as a part of their jobs…

>> WaPo’s Erik Wemple showed up at the party and tried to ask Sanders some Q’s… She said “I just don’t think this is the appropriate venue…”


— Lachlan Cartwright’s brand new scoop: The NYT’s Trump tax team “imploded when star reporter David Barstow went rogue…” (Beast)

— Ken Lerer is stepping down as chairman of BuzzFeed… (Axios)

— The private equity firm Genesis Park has sold Texas Monthly mag to “billionaire oil and gas heiress Randa Duncan Williams…” (DMN)

— Condé Nast is selling W mag to Future Media… W’s style director Sara Moonves, daughter of Les, will be the new editor in chief… (NYPost)

The end of NRATV?

Danny Hakim’s latest for the NYT: The NRA “has shut down production at NRATV” and “severed all business with its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, which operates NRATV, the N.R.A.’s live broadcasting media arm… While NRATV may continue to air past content, its live broadcasting will end and its on-air personalities — Ackerman employees who included Dana Loesch — will no longer be the public faces” of the organization…


— New Tuesday book releases to note: MSNBC’s Joy Reid is out with “The Man Who Sold America,” The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum is out with “I Like to Watch,” and professor and frequent TV commentator Kim Wehle is out with “How to Read the Constitution — and Why…”

Read more of Tuesday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

— LinkedIn’s algorithm changes are favoring conversations “that cater to niche professional interests, as opposed to elevating viral content…” (Axios)