President Trump held a roundtable discussion about MS-13 in Suffolk County, New York on Wednesday in which he used super-heated rhetoric to emphasize the threat that gang members — and by extension, undocumented immigrants — purportedly pose.
At one point, Trump claimed that people who live on Long Island “can’t walk outside” because “you have gang members that are so rough” that people are afraid to leave their homes.
“It’s almost like a war where you’re getting rid of somebody that is occupying your nation,” Trump said. “And for me to go through and be in this position, and see towns that I’ve known all my life — I grew here here, I know every one of the towns — and it’s unthinkable that it’s almost like an occupied territory where your children are afraid to go out, and in many cases if they go out, bad things happen.”
But roughly 45 minutes in to Wednesday’s roundtable event, the hyperbole of Trump’s fear-mongering was accidentally exposed by Suffolk County police commissioner Geraldine Hart, who noted that there hasn’t been an MS-13-linked homicide in Suffolk County in more than a year.
“Since September of 2016, the department’s multi-faceted approach has resulted in 355 arrests of 235 MS-13 gang members,” she said. “There has not been an MS-13 murder in Suffolk County since April of 2017.”
After all of this fear-mongering about MS-13 a speaker acknowledges there hasn't been an MS-13 murder in the area of New York this roundtable is taking place in in more than a year! pic.twitter.com/VZ8RJIauz0
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 23, 2018
Trump didn’t directly respond to Hart’s statistic, but instead described individual crimes committed by alleged MS-13 members in grisly detail.
The president also indicated he has no regrets about calling MS-13 members “animals” during a recent White House event.
“I called them ‘animals’ the other day, and I was met with rebuke,” Trump said. “They said, ‘they’re people.’ They aren’t people. These are animals. And we have to be very, very tough.”
Trump closed the event by signaling approval of ICE agents’ using rough tactics against suspected gang members.
“They throw these guys into these wagons, these rollings jails… when you see the scene — and I saw it — of guys being thrown right into these wagons, being taken away, and the crowd is cheering — cheering — and in one way it’s beautiful and in another way it’s terrible,” Trump said. “I want to thank law enforcement because what they go through, and the restrictions that are put on them are incredible. You gotta be nice, can’t be too tough, have to be gentle. They can’t touch, can’t do anything, and they do incredible job, and people understand.”
While Trump would have you believe Long Island is a battle zone, crime statistics don’t back him up. According to the Washington Post, “there were 37 homicides in all of Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2017 — the entirety of Long Island east of New York City. That total was down from 59 the year before. The counties are home to 2.8 million people.”