CNN Potentially Aired ‘Staged’ Migrant Crossing At Border, Alleges Progressive Publication

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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CNN potentially aired a “staged” migrant crossing of the Rio Grande, a progressive news outlet alleged Monday.

The American Prospect dove into a March 12 CNN report about crossing the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas. CNN’s report, which aired on “Outfront with Erin Burnett,” featured correspondent Ed Lavandera reporting on what appeared to be migrants crossing the river using a motorboat and smugglers clad in black ski masks.

During the segment, Lavandera reported “the Rio Grande Valley has been ground zero for the latest surge in migration” and gestured toward “the operation unfolding right in front of” them.

“After the first raft crosses, the magnitude of this moment reveals itself. Dozens of migrants emerge and walk down to the river’s edge. You can see that this is a serious operation,” Lavandera reported at the time. (RELATED: Border Patrol Sees Rising Rates Of Abandoned Infants, Toddlers At Southern Border)


The American Prospect noted that activists “flagged” the “unusual video” and suggested it was “deliberately manufactured to present a story of a border crisis.” The activists also speculated that Border Patrol participated in the alleged “staged” event, The American Prospect reported.

“In the CNN footage, the smuggler leading the boat wears fatigues and a black ski mask,” according to the article. “Smugglers typically attempt to blend in with the migrants, to avoid more severe punishment should they be caught. Smugglers also don’t normally provide face masks and life vests, nor ferry six boatloads of people across in broad daylight. Migrants also don’t typically line up single file along the shore to cross.”

Former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd expressed concern the scene was staged, telling the publication that the smuggler’s get-up suggested he “knew he would be filmed and he didn’t want to be set up.” In a separate Medium post, Budd noted a conversation overheard on a separate video, with one man asking another if they “ever hook those guys up.”

“As a former agent, what I hear is these men possibly talking about paying this smuggler off to gather a bunch of unsuspecting migrants and have them cross in a particular place in order to get this shot,” Budd speculated. “Whether or not CNN knew this was a set up or not, I cannot say.”


Executive director of the National Butterfly Center’s Marianna Trevino Wright also said her publication goes to the area multiple times every week and “never sees any kind of trafficking operation like this,” The American Prospect reported. The Guardian recently noted that access to the particular area where CNN filmed “is controlled by border patrol.”

CNN responded to the allegations on Twitter prior to The American Prospect’s report and denied participating “in any type of coordinated effort to shoot a staged scene of migrants crossing the river.”

“CNN did not participate in any type of coordinated effort to shoot a staged scene of migrants crossing the river nor have we found any credible evidence that suggests our team was unknowingly part of a set-up by Border Patrol or anyone else,” Matt Dornic, CNN’s head of strategic communications, tweeted.

Customs and Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.