Since the inaction of a “zero tolerance” immigration policy in Donald Trump’s administration, thousands of children have been separated from their parents and placed in detention centers in Texas. National discussion about immigration and border security has reached a fever pitch. Players on both sides of the aisle are questioning the policy’s legality and morality.
Then there’s Corey Lewandowski. He’s a former Trump campaign manager and frequent guest on cable channels like CNN and Fox News. Like a handful of other Trump faithfuls, he’s been happy to defend the separation tactics. On June 19, 2018, he appeared on Fox News to support the policy. And when faced with a particularly brutal example of separation at the border, his response left viewers and his fellow panelists shocked.
The stories coming from the border are hard to stomach
Countless harrowing stories about children — including babies – being removed from their parents’ care after their families attempted to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. But one, in particular, struck a nerve.
On Fox News, Zac Petkanas, a former senior Democratic National Committee adviser, was listing off instances in which he believed the policy had gone too far. He shared an anecdote about a 10-year-old girl with down syndrome currently separated from her mother. According to Petkanas, she remained housed “in a cage.”
Before he could continue, Lewandowski interrupted him, offering up nothing more than a deadpan “Womp womp” in response. It was a disquietingly sarcastic dismissal of a story of human suffering. But Lewandowski refused to back down when Petkanas responded incredulously, “How dare you? How dare you?”
The former Trump strategist argued that it didn’t matter what the circumstances were. He said, “When you cross the border illegally, you have given up the rights of this country.”
.@Zac_Petkanas says on Fox News a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome was separated from her mother at the border.
Corey Lewandowski responds: "Womp womp." pic.twitter.com/cZMXWmwbjw
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) June 19, 2018
Backlash to Lewandowski was swift
Viewers, pundits, celebrities, and politicians all took issue with Lewandowski’s response. Still, he maintained that he had said nothing wrong. On June 20, 2018, he tweeted: “Lots of Fake News today. I mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system. It’s offenseive [sp] that the MSM doesn’t want to talk about the fact these policies were started under Obama.”
And he returned to Fox News, where he argued that the media should pay more attention to stories about undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. He also said, “Nobody wants to see children separated from their parents. But the parents have to understand when they come to this country illegally, those are the consequences.”
There is a wealth of evidence that the law does not require parents and children to be separated if they are caught attempting to cross the U.S. border illegally. And even if it did, Lewandowski’s dismissive attitude is in poor taste. But Lewandowski has made a career out of being controversial. As campaign manager, he frequently butted heads with other Trump insiders and the news media.
In March 2016, he was charged with misdemeanor battery after he strong-armed a female reporter, though the charges were later dropped. In June 2016, he was fired from the Trump campaign, and shortly thereafter joined CNN as a political pundit, a move that drew widespread criticism from viewers.
Lewandowski has always remained a consistent supporter of Trump. When asked about the president’s controversial comments on Access Hollywood, Lewandowski claimed, “We’re not choosing a Sunday school teacher.”
And despite the consistent backlash, Trump vouched for Lewandowski, too. In December 2017, Trump defended Lewandowski for not being a “pushover.” The president has yet to comment on his former campaign manager’s newest controversial remarks.
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