Mainstream media hyperventilates over tear gas under Trump, but largely ignored it during Obama era

Media outlets that are hyperventilating over the Border Patrol's use of tear gas and pepper spray on illegal immigrants ignored the practice during the Obama administration, and even now gloss over past precedent in the rush to condemn President Trump.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity recently said the mainstream media couldn’t ignore the caravan or “pretend it is some grand conspiracy theory cooked up by the GOP to get votes in the midterms,” so it decided to go all-in condemning the use of non-lethal tear gas.

As a result, CNN and MSNBC have both spent significant time bashing the use of tear gas under President Trump, but the mainstream media essentially ignored it when Obama-era Border Patrol agents did the exact same thing.

A search of CNN and MSNBC available transcripts for of reports for tear gas or pepper spray at the Southern border under Obama yielded zero results. The Associated Press mentioned it a few times and ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported it once. Other than that, coverage was limited to local newspapers and NBC’s San Diego affiliate.

“A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border Sunday near the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at U.S. Border Patrol agents, who responded by using pepper spray and other means to force the crowd back into Mexico,” the San Diego Union Tribune reported on Nov. 25, 2013.

While the Union Tribune’s report reads like it could have been printed this week, the five-year-old story wasn’t reported by several outlets that have condemned recent use of non-lethal force against people attempting to illegally cross the border.

According to DHS data obtained by Fox News, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has used 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, commonly known as tear gas, 126 times since 2010.

During the Obama administration, tear gas was used on the border 26 times in 2012, 27 times in 2013, 15 times in 2014, eight times in 2015, and three times in 2016. That compares to 18 times in 2017 and 29 times in 2018 during the Trump administration. As for pepper spray, the Obama administration used it 95 times in 2012, 151 times in 2013, 109 times in 2014, 30 times in 2015 and 56 times in 2016, the data shows -- compared to 56 times in 2017 and 43 times in 2018 during the Trump administration.

ABC News’ “The View” served as a microcosm of the liberal media on Wednesday when co-host Joy Behar asked if there was “any evidence” that tear gas was used during the Obama administration before she was presented with data – which seemed to bother co-host Sunny Hostin.

“The last I checked President Obama is no longer in office. President Trump is in office and he’s destroying the country,” Hostin said. This ‘but Obama’ defense doesn’t work for me… I don't care what Obama did. I care what Trump is doing right here right now.”

"I don't care what Obama did. I care what Trump is doing right here right now"

— Sunny Hostin

Like most media outlets, Fox News did not report on many of the instances in which the Obama-era Department of Homeland Security used the tactic. In fact, it happened so often that it wasn’t always newsworthy. A recent report in The Washington Times said “more than once a month during the later years” of Obama’s presidency.

However, as the Trump administration under fire for doing the same thing, media watchdogs have noticed mainstream media outlets are suddenly taking notice. The Media Research Center President Brent Bozell asked, “Did no one care about the immigrants then?”

Little photographic evidence exists from the encounters during the Obama administration, while much of the outrage directed at the Trump administration stems from a photo appearing to show a mother and two children fleeing tear gas canisters on Sunday.

A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, run away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung

A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, run away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung

While the mainstream media has put a spotlight on the use of tear gas, it has also created a specific narrative about the migrants, according to some critics.

Media analyst Bill D’Agostino wrote that “talking heads on CNN and MSNBC have repeated numerous outright falsehoods about the Central American caravan” before pointing to eight different examples cable pundits pushing liberal narratives.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was called a “repeat-offender of the pernicious lie that the caravan did not even exist,” while CNN’s Jim Acosta famously downplayed the caravan directly to President Trump. D’Agostino's study shows that before the caravan arrived and tear gas was needed, cable news pundits called it “imaginary,” “phony,” “a fantasy,” “bogus” and even a “conspiracy theory.”

Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.