USA News

FLASHBACK: NPR, MSNBC, NY Times, parroted debunked claim about Border Patrol ‘whipping’ Haitian migrants

FLASHBACK: NPR, MSNBC, NY Times, parroted debunked claim about Border Patrol 'whipping' Haitian migrants

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa claimed Sunday that U.S. Border Patrol agents had whipped Black Haitian migrants under the Biden administration, a media narrative that has since been debunked. 

While discussing the administration’s decision to end its use of the Title 42 public health order that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border, Hinojosa said it was important to “correct the narrative” around immigration decisions made under the current president. 

“Joe Biden has had so many opportunities, horrific opportunities. Like when we saw Haitian black people being whipped by men on horses. That would have been his moment to stand in front of the horse and say this stops, never again. We’re going to reform Border Patrol entirely, top to bottom,” Hinojosa said, in a clip flagged by NewsBusters. 


NPR did not respond to a request for comment. 

Whether it be in the newsroom or on Twitter, she is far from the first member of the media to push this claim. Numerous personalities and reporters regurgitated the belief that Border Patrol had whipped migrants back in September 2021 in Del Rio, Texas. The agents have since been cleared in the investigation but have been on desk duty since the incident.

Border Patrol has confirmed that they do not carry whips and the objects in pictures of the incident were reins. The photographer of the images that initially sparked outrage also claimed he did not see any whipping occur. 

On two separate occasions, MSNBC’s Joy Reid claimed that Haitian migrants were whipped, likening the controversy to the times of slavery. 

“Very quickly, I know funding for the government begins in the house. Should we be looking at the budget for Homeland Security? Because I was not aware that whips which come from the slave era, slavery era, were part of the package that we issue to any sort of law enforcement or government sanction personnel. Were you aware that was being issued to people, that people had that kind of equipment on them that they could use on humans?” Reid asked Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. 

Omar said she was not aware and that she was “quite appalled.” She added that cruelty has been “embedded” in U.S. immigration policy for years, and that the alleged whipping was “obviously systemic racism at play.”


EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.  (Photo by PAUL RATJE / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

In a separate interview with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Reid compared the alleged whippings to the Fugitive Slave Act, an analogy that the MSNBC host has floated on more than one occasion. She also spoke out against the incident on Twitter.

“This is beyond repulsive. Are these images from 2021 or 1851?” she said at the time. 

It appeared that a September 19 viral report from the El Paso Times was the impetus for the narrative regurgitated by liberal media outlets. 

“The agent swung his whip menacingly, charging his horse toward the men in the river who were trying to return to an encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio after buying food and water in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. One migrant fell as he tried to dodge, others shielded their heads with their hands,” the report said in part. 

The excerpt was shared by reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who also got into a heated discussion with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki over the controversy. 

“This is absolutely horrifying. Like something out of the 19th century,” The Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer tweeted. “I don’t know about anyone else but I wasn’t aware border patrol agents were authorized to use whips on human beings.”


“Wait… cracking whips?” Associated Press reporter Jim Vertuno asked.

“My God,” Sunny Hostin from “The View” reacted.

The Times story was additionally shared by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Business Insider reporter Eliza Relman and The Week correspondent Ryan Cooper.

“US Border Agents Are Removing Haitian Migrants Using Horses and Whips,” said the headline of a Vice News story. 

Haitian migrants continue to cross across the US-Mexico border on the Rio Grande as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico on September 20, 2021. 
(Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

A few outlets issued corrections a few days later; however the vast majority did not. 

Critics ripped into Axios after the outlet deleted a tweet referring to Border Patrol agents as “whipping at” Haitian migrants attempting to cross from Mexico into the U.S. They addressed their decision in a later tweet. 

The New York Times also updated a report to read, “Images of Border Patrol agents on horseback waving their reins while pushing migrants back…”

“An earlier version … overstated what is known about the behavior of some Border Patrol agents on horseback. While the agents waved their reins while pushing migrants back into the Rio Grande, The Times has not seen conclusive evidence that migrants were struck with the reins,” the correction at the bottom of the piece read in September 201. 


The Washington Post, NBC, AP, USA Today, Snopes, and more all failed to address the debunked claim with fact-checks. 

A number of Democrats and those within the Biden administration also pushed the debunked claim that the reins had been used as whips. President Biden even asserted that the agents would “pay” for their treatment of the migrants. 

Darshan Shah
the authorDarshan Shah