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Mike Pence Is Angry That CNN Doesn’t Show the Soft, Friendly Side of Border Camps

Mike Pence peeks out from behind a flag with an expression that screams 'soon.'

Mike Pence visited two Border Patrol detention centers Friday and his big takeaway was apparently that they’re not all that bad. Over multiple tweets, he accused CNN of “dishonest” reporting, saying that they only focus on the horrific condition of these camps–specifically the men’s camp–and ignore “the excellent care being provided to families and children.”

The gaslighting on display here is so many layers deep. He’s essentially accusing CNN of dishonest reporting by not both-sidesing concentration camps. He also doesn’t really say that the horrific conditions reported are inaccurate. (One reporter travelling with Pence described a “stench from body odor” that “hung stale in the air.”)

But he’s arguing that the overcrowding, the lack of hygiene, and all the other horrible conditions inside these camps is the fault of Democrats. It’s a similar tactic Donald Trump used during the government shutdown a few months ago, blaming Democrats for not funding his border wall while holding government workers and services hostage. That Pence’s claim comes right on the heels of House Democrats voting to pass the Republican DHS funding bill highlights just how hollow his accusations are.

But it’s Pence’s insistence that the “compassionate care” of these Border Patrol agents deserves more praise that’s absolutely, absurdly reprehensible. We’ve heard story after story from news outlets as well as directly from lawmakers, describing how these agents treat the detained. They’ve been accused of sexually assaulting at least one minor in front of other officers, all laughing while it was happening. Agents reportedly told women in custody to drink from the toilet when a sink wasn’t available. We’ve seen screenshots of the way these “compassionate” agents degrade women and immigrants when they think they’re speaking privately. At least seven children have died in CPB custody.

Pence’s attempt to praise the care and conditions of the camp is an insult to everyone who is suffering and has suffered in CPB custody. But it’s not surprising that this was his focus after seeing video of his visit.

The video (just so you can decide for yourself if you want to watch it or not) shows dozens of men crammed into a space behind a chainlink fence, trying to communicate with reporters, saying things like “no shower,” while Pence looks on, emotionless with his arms crossed, like he’s observing something animal or inanimate.

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey tweeted, “What we saw on the border yesterday traveling w/VP Pence: Almost 400 men crammed into hot, caged areas with no cots or pillows. They said they hadn’t showered in days. Pence said he knew it was ‘tough stuff’ and wasn’t surprised.”

And this was what CPB decided was okay for Pence and reporters to see and film. This was their best photo-op.

(image: Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.