ABC Compares Trump Deportations to Obama’s
ABC and CBS covered the deportations around the country after President Trump took office. They each focused on the same woman, but the stories they told were very different.
In its Feb. 9 broadcast, CBS featured Guadalupe García de Rayos, a Mexican immigrant living in Phoenix before she was deported in early February. Rayos was arrested in 2008 for using a fake Social Security number, a felony; but her only punishment was regular check-ins at the local immigration office.
“She was allowed to stay in the U.S. because she wasn’t considered a security threat,” reported CBS Correspondent Carter Evans. “But under new rules, President Trump has made any criminal offense criteria enough for deportation.”
On Feb. 13, ABC World News Tonight told the Rayos story as part of a broader piece on the recent nationwide deportation raids.
In ABC’s story, correspondent Mary Bruce asked, “Is this business as usual or a new normal?” Bruce reported that federal agents insist these deportations are routine, planned before Trump took office.
“This feels more like a huge shift in policy to get to ‘I want to deport 11 million people.’ And we’re going to do everything in our power to stop that,” Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. told Bruce.
ABC then included what CBS did not: that President Obama was dubbed “Deporter in Chief” for expelling more than two million illegal immigrants. ABC also reported that 680 undocumented immigrants were arrested the week before this report was broadcast.
ABC did not report the rule change under Trump that is responsible for Rayos’ removal.
Was ABC right to contrast the raids with Obama’s deportations, and should CBS have done so as well? Was it clear enough to an ABC viewer that, despite Obama’s stance on immigration, Rayos was allowed to remain under his rules?
Two experienced journalists, Carol Marin, the political editor at NBC Chicago, and Candy Crowley, a former anchor and correspondent at CNN addressed these questions.
“I like the context of it because it doesn’t stand alone as a fact,” Marin said. “It also helps to know if the standards for those deportations … have changed under Trump or Obama. It would have been nice to have all of that in one package I think.”
But according to Crowley those two numbers cannot be compared.
“Since truth and clarity are the hallmarks of good journalism, I think ABC could easily have done a comparative of deportations Trump vs. Obama,” Crowley said. “The number two million over eight years is kind of meaningless unless you know how that stacks up with Trumps’ initial roundups.”
On average, the Obama administration deported more than 4,800 people per week, much higher than the 680 arrested with the intent to deport in one week under Trump.
“You will have as a reporter at the most two minutes to do your story, so all the things that are going to go in versus all of the things that can’t fit in,” said Carol Marin. “But each piece could have been made a little richer or a little deeper by the addition of the facts that you talk about.”
More from the pros:
- “I don’t think context is ever a distraction. Just like when we talk about leaks and punishing leaks and Trump going after the press, I think it is also important to note that President Obama punished more reporters than all other presidents before him combined.”
- “Additionally, both pieces could have used more precision on the difference in the handling of undocumented workers … Did she stay under Obama (who deported low-level criminals in his last year) because she had American-born children and the desire not to break up families? What is Trump’s policy?”
- “I have trouble with the blazing ‘DEPORTATION SURGE’ banner in the ABC piece. Is it? The numbers don’t seem to justify it.” Crowley referred to a New York Times piece that, as she says, provides a more nuanced view of the raids.