The El Paso Times has walked back its explosive claim that a border agent used a whip to deter Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande in Texas, saying that “it was not an actual whip.”
“Clarification: Our reporting team witnessed at least one agent on horseback swing his reins like a whip,” said the editor’s note added to the top of the Sept. 19 story. “We have updated the story to clarify that fact since it was not an actual whip.”
The original story said: “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.”
The story now reads: “The agent menacingly swung his reins like a whip, 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.”
The initial account went viral, as did photos posted online, prompting Democrats and media figures to accuse agents of “whipping” migrants and the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation, while the agents involved were placed on administrative duty.
The White House announced Friday that the use of horses by agents at the border has been suspended, while President Biden blasted what he described as the images of “people being strapped.”
“I’m president but it was horrible to see what you saw to see people treat it like they did — horses barely running over, people being strapped,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s outrageous, I promise you, those people will pay.”
Others, including border union officials, have said that the mounted officer was swinging his reins to control the horses, adding that border agents don’t carry whips.
The photographer who took the viral photos, Paul Ratje, told KTSM-TV in El Paso that he saw the agent swing his reins, but “I didn’t see him actually whip someone with it.”
The National Border Patrol Council blasted Mr. Biden, calling him “oblivious to the concept of due process.”
“Even though the White House acknowledged there is an ongoing investigation, saying that the agents ‘will pay’ shows that they aren’t truly interested in the results. The photographer who took the photos said that nobody was whipped. Deciding they did something wrong without any form of due process — that should not be who we are,” council vice president Jon Anfinsen said Friday in a statement on ABC.