President Biden on Friday issued a stern warning to Border Patrol agents seen this week chasing migrants on horseback, vowing, "those people will pay," amid an ongoing investigation into the images which some Democrats have falsely claimed showed agents whipping migrants.
The president said Border Patrol agents were victimizing migrants: "Horses run them over, people being strapped." However, critics have pointed out the agents were holding onto reins to control the horses, not whips or straps for migrants.
"Of course I take responsibility," Biden said. "I’m president, but it was horrible what you saw."
"To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped — it’s outrageous," Biden said. "I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences."
He added that it is "an embarrassment, but beyond an embarrassment, it’s dangerous."
"It’s wrong," he said. "It sends the wrong message around the world. It sends the wrong message at home."
He added: "It’s simply not who we are."
The remark drew an immediate rebuke from Brandon Judd, head of the National Border Patrol Council, who blasted Biden for making a determination before the ongoing investigation into the controversy was complete.
"Now that the President of the United States has already said they did wrong, how is an investigator supposed to do a true and honest investigation?" he told Fox News in an interview. "Because if that investigator finds they did nothing wrong -- and they didn’t do anything wrong -- but if that investigator finds they didn’t do anything wrong, how is that investigator’s job going to go?
Judd said Biden’s comments were "completely and totally outrageous."
"He is playing politics with Border Patrol agents' lives, that’s what he’s doing."
The photographer behind the widely seen images said Friday that the agents never whipped anyone.
"Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses," Paul Ratje told KTSM. "I've never seen them whip anyone," he added. "He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture."
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it was prohibiting Border Patrol agents from using horses in the Del Rio sector as the investigation proceeded. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said in a statement: "We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily. We'll prioritize other methods for identifying individuals who might be in medical distress."
In fact, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz had debunked the claims Monday, noting agents were wielding long reins to control their horses in difficult riverines.
Other Border Patrol sources have noted that agents will spin or twirl their reins in order to move the horse forward as a signal to the horse. So far no images have been presented of migrants being hit by the reins.
However, as the White House condemned the images, by Tuesday Mayorkas had changed his stance.
"I was horrified by what I saw," Mayorkas told CNN. "I'm going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people."
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris said she supported an investigation and was "deeply troubled" by the allegations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., decried "images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol—including the use of whips."
The agents involved have since been moved to administrative duty.
The narrative that the agents used "whips" has continued to gather steam among activists and left-wing Democrats, who have then infused a racial narrative into the encounters involving Haitian migrants.
"What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said this week. "What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery … cowboys with their reins, again, whipping Black people."
"This is insane. The agents did nothing wrong," one agent responded to Fox News.
On Friday, former acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, who served during the Trump administration, tore into Biden.
"The Border Patrol agents been have abandoned, scapegoated, and thrown under the bus by their own Secretary and now vilified by the President of the United States," he said. "They have been condemned, careers ruined, and reputations irreparably harmed without any due process -- all to distract from the out of control catastrophic crisis at our southern border. I'm pissed."
Fox News' Bill Melugin and Peter Hasson contributed to this report.