Cross posted at the MRC's NewsBusters blog
On Wednesday evening, in a report informing viewers of efforts by the Donald Trump administration to detain illegal immigrant families for longer than 20 days before releasing them into the country, both anchor Norah O'Donnell and correspondent Chip Reid failed to inform viewers that those immigrants affected would be those who had broken the law in crossing the border.
By contrast, on the NBC Nightly News, both anchor Lester Holt and correspondent Hallie Jackson forthrightly informed viewers that the rule change was about those who crossed the border illegally.
On CBS, choices of words like "crackdown on immigration," "migrant families," and "families with children" were used without giving any indication that those families had broken the law by crossing the border without permission instead of traveling to legal ports of entry.
Host O'Donnell led with the story in the tease: "Tonight, a new crackdown on immigration. The President is ready to lift the 20-day limit on separating children from their parents."
As if there were no difference between asylum seekers who follow the proper process and those who drag their children across rivers or desert land to sneak into the country, O'Donnell presented the story as the first of the show:
The President is taking steps tonight to discourage migrant families from seeking asylum here in the United States, his latest crackdown on immigration. The administration put out a new rule today that will require approval from a federal judge before it can go into effect, but it is meant to stem the tide of the almost 475,000 families that have been apprehended or encountered at the Southwestern border in the last 10 months, and the Department of Homeland Security says that number of crossings is three times the previous record for a full year.
After beginning the report with a soundbite of President Donald Trump, correspondent Reid began: "President Trump today said he was concerned about the record-breaking number of families with children crossing the Southern border while Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan unveiled a new federal regulation to do something about it."
Then came a soundbite of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan: "The new rule will reduce the unprecedented volume of family units."
Under current rules, most families with children are released after no more than 20 days. The new rule would allow families to be detained for as long as it takes to decide their asylum cases. The administration hopes the threat of indefinite detention will discourage families from coming in the first place -- 475,000 families have crossed the Southern border since October.
In the report which lasted two minutes and 45 seconds, at no point did O'Donnell or Reid indicate that only those who cross the border illegally would be affected by the rule change. By contrast, over on NBC, Holt set up the story: "The Trump administration is proposing a major change in how long it can detain migrant families that have crossed the border illegally."
Correspondent Jackson gave some of both sides of the story as she recalled that "the number of migrant families crossing the border illegally has hit record highs over the past year" and related the Trump administration argument that the current policy encourages illegal immigrants to bring their children with them so they can avoid being detained longer than the 20-day limit.