Fox News host Shep Smith and chief White House correspondent John Roberts presented viewers with a comprehensive fact-check of President Donald Trump’s false claims that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, was the one responsible for instituting a policy in which children were separated from their parents at the southern border.
Smith said the president needs to explain why his “rhetoric” does not match “reality.”
“Obama separated the children, just so you understand. President Obama separated the children,” Trump falsely claimed during an Oval Office photo-op prior to his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Tuesday. “The cages that were shown, very inappropriate, they were built by President Obama and the Obama administration –not by Trump,” the president told reporters.
“President Trump has made similar claims before. Following are the facts.” Smith said.
Adding, “It’s undeniably true that the roots of this issue stretched back many years. In 2005, President George W. Bush launched operation streamline to arrest, imprison and deport those here illegally.”
“Fox News research shows officials gave children a pass. President Obama continued the operation. However, the Obama Administration tended to keep families together. There were exceptions, but it was not the policy to separate,” he said.
“After President Trump issued the zero tolerance order, officials did separate children from their parents. Some families have not yet been reunited. President Trump spoke about cages. It is true that some of the photos circulating online showed children kept in chain-linked enclosures during the Obama Administration. For instance, this photo is from 2014. In that year, the Obama Administration saw a surge in children and families from Central America. They started jailing families together as family units,” he said.
Smith said, “The Trump Administration did separate families. The Trump Department of Homeland Security estimates more than 2,300 children had been separated from their families by last spring. The Trump Administration did detain children in cages. An unknown number of those children are still not back with their families. President Trump said today he is not reinstating his own child separation policy.”
Trump’s false claim that child separations were carried out by the Obama administration has been frequently debunked by fact-checkers.
“The Obama administration did not do that, no. We did not separate children from their parents,” former Obama domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz told NPR in May 2018. “This is a new decision, a policy decision put in place by the attorney general,” which Muñoz said “puts us in league with the most brutal regimes in the world’s history.”
It was then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions who instituted the so-called zero tolerance policy at the southern border in April 2018, which resulted in children being separated from their parents who were taken into custody for criminal prosecution.
A federal judge allowed a lawsuit challenging the policy last June and Trump issued an executive order ending it.
Still, as NPR’s Domenico Montanaro wrote last year, the Trump administration has been unwilling to take the blame for the policy of family separations because of the political optics.