If you have never ridden a horse, you can be forgiven for misunderstanding the intricacies of horse tack: bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, and the like.
If you’re the president of the United States and your administration includes Border Patrol agents who regularly perform their duties on horseback, you should know better.
And yet, Joe Biden and his administration clearly do not. Out of Del Rio, Texas, where tens of thousands of people who have illegally crossed the border have been living for more than a week in a makeshift camp under a bridge, an image emerged of a Border Patrol officer on horseback attempting to apprehend people who were trying to cross the Rio Grande River.
The image went viral when Sawyer Hackett, who works for former Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro, tweeted it out claiming, “Border patrol is mounted on horseback rounding up Haitian refugees with whips. This is unfathomable cruelty towards people fleeing disaster and political ruin. The administration must stop this.”
But the administration would rather throw its own Border Patrol agents under the bus than take responsibility for its policy failures at the border. After Left Twitter lost its collective mind over the images, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki appeared on CBS Morning News on Monday claiming that Border Patrol agents’ actions were “horrific and horrible.” “That’s not who the Biden and Harris administration is,” she said.
The administration doubled down on Tuesday, when Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters, “What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible. And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there. But human beings should never be treated that way. And I’m deeply troubled about it. And I’ll also be talking to Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas about it today.”
But Department of Homeland Security chief Mayorkas is apparently as confused as Harris. Mayorkas initially defended the actions of his agents (as he should have done since they were simply doing their job under extremely stressful circumstances). But by Tuesday, he, too, was attacking them, telling CNN, “I was horrified by what I saw,” adding, “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.” Luckily for the Biden administration, there will be fewer and fewer of those pictures available: Biden empowered the FAA to ban all drone photography in the Del Rio area, citing vague “security” concerns, although in effect this amounts to a media blackout of images of the situation at the Del Rio bridge.
The crisis at the southern border has been ongoing for many months with little effective response by the administration. Mayorkas recently claimed that the “border is not open,” yet migrants keep coming, and the U.S. is releasing many of them into the United States rather than sending them back to their countries of origin. Harris was deputized by Biden to handle the situation at the border. Her eagerness to pile on Border Patrol while doing nothing useful to solve the ongoing crisis is illustrative of her tenure in the Vice President’s office thus far. As one Border Patrol agent told FOX News, “[Harris] is placing blame on agents to deflect because she and Biden are not going to change how they are handling this.”
Some Democrats in Congress were all too eager to join the scrum of people denouncing Border Patrol. Rep. Maxine Waters falsely claimed agents were using whips on Haitian migrants; and Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “This is so sick and @CBPwill continue to commit human rights abuses if we don’t stop it now. Cracking a f**king whip on Haitians fleeing hardship shows you that this system simply can’t be reformed.”
Journalists have also eagerly spread the lie about agents using whips. The Associated Press’ White House reporter Darlene Superville repeated the “whip-wielding” lie in her tweet promoting Psaki’s CBS appearance. VICE reporter Emily Green was so eager to turn Border Patrol into the bad guys that she felt compelled to change their race. She tweeted, “Largely white Border Patrol agents on horses cracking whips at Black Haitian migrants seeking protection. . .the optics of this are terrible.”
But it wasn’t the optics that were terrible; it was her “reporting.” The Border Patrol agents are in fact largely Hispanic, not white, and as the image clearly shows, they were not whipping migrants seeking protection but doing their job of securing the border against people who are attempting illegally to cross it.
Even after it was repeatedly pointed out that the border agents were holding reins, not whips, in their hands, partisan journalists simply shifted their rhetoric so that they could continue to accuse the agents of malfeasance (and, by implication, avoid criticizing Biden for his failure to deal with the crisis). MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, for example, began claiming that agents were “using the reins as whips,” which was also false (the agents use split reins, and sometimes use a single rein to guide and control the movements of their horses, particularly when the horses are surrounded by large groups of people, something anyone who has ever sat horseback understands).
Why have Democratic lawmakers and their media allies fallen into lockstep on this story despite clear evidence that they are spreading misinformation? Because it suits two narratives dear to the heart of those on their side of the political aisle: the idea that anyone who opposes an open border is a dangerous America First nationalist, and the notion that Border Patrol agents enforcing the law are in fact racists attacking vulnerable minorities.
The race narrative is especially pleasing to those on the left who view all efforts at policing as suspect or morally dubious. The images—of uniformed agents on horseback chasing black people—seem bad, so they must be bad, or so goes the logic of far too many people in the Democratic coalition. These are the same people who think the phrase “master bedroom” is racist and should be removed from real-estate listings. It’s not logic; it’s a racialized version of the politics of emotion.
In the end, the real reason the administration and its allies embraced the Big Bad Border Patrol narrative is that it spares them having to confront the far worse reality: They are the kind of leaders who would rather publicly humiliate their own Border Patrol agents than take responsibility for their own mishandling of a crisis.