The Trump administration is seeking additional help to combat negative media coverage of the practice of family separation along the border
In an email obtained by CNN, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, put out a call to all of its field offices asking for additional press staff to come to headquarters for 60 days to help address media reporting on the issue.
The mission will be to “push back on factually inaccurate reporting in the media” and look for reports in the press that contain “glaring inaccuracies,” the email says.
Inside DHS, there is a growing attitude of frustration with the way the issue is playing out in the public eye – complaining about what they see as spurious reports, sources say.
One source familiar with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s state of mind says she is frustrated – but in her eyes, the frustration is the way the situation is being reported.
Nielsen said as much in a speech this week, noting the “outcry” and “misinformation” on the issue in remarks before the National Sheriff’s Association.
“To a select few in the media, Congress, and the advocacy community I have a message for you: This Department will no longer stand by and watch you attack law enforcement for enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” she said.
Nielsen also fought questions about the policy during a contentious White House press briefing Monday afternoon.
President Donald Trump has also acknowledged the optics of the issue as opposed to acknowledging his own role in creating it. On Tuesday, he told a group of House Republicans that his daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka, approached him about the separations and “he said he does recognize that it needs to end and the images are painful,” said Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
Administration officials have also held background calls with journalists over the past several days to combat what they see as negative coverage of border enforcement.
The administration instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy in April and May that refers nearly all adults caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution. Because of that, substantially more families are being separated at the border, with more than 2,300 children separated from the parents or adults they came into the US with since April.
CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said the agency is “appropriately” building up its press staff temporarily, to help “correct the record.”
“US Customs and Border Protection appropriately is temporarily augmenting the staffing for the Office of Public Affairs with experienced personnel with direct knowledge of the current border environment will help increase our capacity to provide quick and accurate responses to the high volume of media inquiries we are currently receiving,” he said in a statement.
“This will also help us to correct the record in the press as there are dozens of recent examples of inaccurate reporting not the least of which are printing without verifying the fidelity of the allegations made. CBP is augmenting the capacity of its public affairs office to help get the story right and remain accountable and transparent to the public.”