President Trump gave an impassioned speech on Friday, vowing to "destroy the vile criminal cartel" MS-13 -- but some in the media lambasted him for talking tough about the brutal gang, and instead presented sympathetic coverage of the group known for carrying out gruesome murders.
Trump's Friday speech on Long Island, where MS-13 gang members have wreaked havoc, highlighted his plan to crack down on gang violence and enforce immigration policies to prevent criminals from illegally entering the United States.
"[MS-13 has] transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields. They’re animals. We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful vibrant people," Trump said to an audience of law enforcement officials, who mostly cheered in approval.
But despite the president's pledge to stop the killings and keep Americans safe from gang members, several left-leaning outlets asserted Trump was making the gang "stronger" with his rhetoric.
CNN claimed Trump's speech was "emboldening" MS-13, allowing the group to more easily recruit members because, the network said, the president and his policies were instilling fear in illegal immigrants. CNN's Dan Lieberman even went so far as to interview two gang members who complained "murders from MS-13 don’t only hurt one family, but hurt both."
"I started growing up in that type of neighborhood. I didn't really get love from my family. Where I grew up, [MS-13] were there, almost all of them," one member told Lieberman. "They seemed like really nice people. They were there for me through tough times."
Vox got in on the action by releasing a report that twisted Trump's words to appear as if the president believed all illegal immigrants were "subhuman." Trump in his speech highlighted recent killings MS-13 has carried out in an attempt to have the gravity of the situation hit home for the Long Island crowd -- but to Vox it was just "tough talk before an adoring crowd."
Slate's Jamelle Bouie said Trump's speeches on MS-13 and illegal immigration used words to "make white people afraid."
"Trump wasn’t just connecting immigrants with violent crime. He was using an outright racist trope: that of the violent, sadistic black or brown criminal, preying on innocent (usually white) women," Bouie wrote.
Washington Post columnist Philip Bump used this tact to criticize Trump, too, when the president, on Wednesday visited Ohio and told a story about gang violence.
"This anecdote, referring to a murder in Virginia, is Trump's graphic depiction of Hispanic immigrants in the United States: Violent, bloodthirsty animals," he wrote.
At another point in the column, Bump added: "To cheers, he returned to the tactic with which he launched his campaign: Painting immigrants as criminals who must be thrown out of the country."