On Tuesday night, two different reactions on two separate cable news networks appear to have framed the debate surrounding the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has led to the forced separation of families and the detainment of thousands of minors in facilities throughout the South.
On MSNBC, as her show was ending, Rachel Maddow attempted to read a story reported by the Associated Press that Trump administration officials had been sending babies and other young children to three “tender age” shelters in South Texas.
Instead, she ended her show in tears.
“I think I’m going to have to hand this off,” an emotional Maddow said as she looked away from the camera and handed off her show to colleague Lawrence O’Donnell.
The story outlines how the Trump administration’s policy has led to young children — some of them infants — being separated from their parents and detained in shelters the Associated Press compared to orphanages.
“The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” said Kay Bellor, the vice president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which provides foster care and other child welfare services to migrant children. “Toddlers are being detained.”
Rachel Maddow chokes up and cries on air as she struggles to deliver news that migrant babies and toddlers have been sent to "tender age" shelters pic.twitter.com/O6crm8cvyR
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) June 20, 2018
On Twitter following her show, Maddow apologized for being overcome with emotion.
“Ugh, I’m sorry. If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I’m on TV,” Maddow wrote, adding in a subsequent tweet, “Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile.”
Meanwhile, on Fox News, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was a guest on The Story with Martha MacCallum,debating Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas about the policy.
Petkanas attempted to highlight a story of a 10-year-old with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother after an illegal border crossing and sent to a Texas shelter, despite the fact her father is a legal U.S. resident who lived close to where the pair crossed.
But before Petkanas could finish his point, Lewandowski, who was fired by the Trump campaign after manhandling a reporter, dismissed the story by rolling his eyes and saying, “Womp, womp.”
“Did you just say ‘womp, womp’ to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome separated from her mother?” any angry Petkanas asked. “How dare you! How absolutely dare you, sir!”
.@Zac_Petkanas on Fox News: “I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage…”
Corey Lewandowski: “Womp womp.” pic.twitter.com/MOiVf0vVGv
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) June 20, 2018
“In his obdurate cruelty in sticking to the party line of the moment as well as his childish reliance on sound effects, Lewandowski became the perfect emblem of Trump’s immigration policy,” the New Republic’s Jeet Heer wrote. “If anyone wants a few seconds that capture the essence of the Trump administration’s pigheadedness all they need to do is watch this exchange.”
Lewandowski did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amid these two vastly different reactions to the administration’s hard-line immigration policy, Trump met with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday night. According to CNN and Politico, Republicans received unclear marching orders from the president, and at least one lawmaker said Trump “didn’t move the ball” on ending the forced separation of families at the border.
Several Republican lawmakers have made it clear that if Trump actually wanted to end the forced separation of families, he could simply reverse the new policy his own administration enacted this spring.
“The White House could change it in five minutes, and they should,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) told NBC News. “Separating especially young children from their parents at the border is not something we should do.”
Federal officials told reporters that between May 5 and June 9, they have separated 2,342 children from their families at the Mexican border and reclassified them as unaccompanied minors. On CNN Tuesday, acting ICE director Thomas Homan appeared at a loss for words when host Wolf Blitzer asked whether the administration’s policy was humane.
“I think that — I think — I think it’s the law,” Homan said, avoiding the question. Blizter pressed him again on whether the Trump administration’s policy was humane, and again Homan avoided the question entirely.
“I think it’s the law, and I’m in law enforcement, and I must follow the law,” Homan said following an awkwardly long pause.
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) June 19, 2018