On Monday evening Pacific Time, former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas posted a photo on Twitter of children inside a cage. He assumed that the photo depicted unaccompanied illegal-immigrant children recently detained by ICE.
Vargas was wrong; but as of late Wednesday morning, he has from all appearances only indirectly admitted his error. An alleged "fact-check" at Snopes.com would not declare that Vargas's obviously fake-news tweet was false. Instead, it absurdly declared that the photo involved had only been "Miscaptioned."
Six hours later, after a couple of thousand retweets had already occurred, Vargas tweeted that he had no idea where the photo came from, and begged for help in determining its origin. As seen below, that tweet garnered far less attention:
In 2011, Vargas revealed that he had been in the U.S. illegally for decades. Among other things, as NewsBusters editor Tim Graham noted at the time, he "lied to a string of media outlets" which employed him "about his immigration status."
Since then, Vargas has headed "Define American," which is "a nonprofit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America." As such, his group supposedly engages in journalism. Posting a photo of unknown origin while claiming to know what it is about is not journalism. It is a quintessential example of fake news.
It turns out that the photo came from a staged Saturday protest in Dallas, Texas. The cage and the children were props. The Facebook page where the photo originally appeared has been made inaccessible, but it remains visible at the Web Archive.
From all appearances, Vargas has only indirectly acknowledged his error by disclosing that he has been in contact with the rally's organizer:
Snopes.com's Kim LaCapria gave Vargas a completely undeserved pass at her Tuesday "fact-check":
Does This Image Show a Toddler in a Cage Detained by ICE in 2018?
A heart-rending photograph of a crying child in a cage has been widely shared, but it was part of a protest to call attention to immigration practices.
In June 2018 social media users began circulating a heart-rending photograph depicting a sobbing toddler clutching the bars of a cage in which he is confined, usually accompanied by commentary stating that the image depicted a boy who had been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2018 and criticizing Trump administration immigration policies as being responsible for the youngster’s plight:
LaCapria then posted Vargas's original tweet, effectively treating the former Post reporter as just another "social media user." This treatment in turn led to her bogus evaluation:
What we have here is fake news followed by an equally fake "fact check." How is the use of a staged photograph not "false"? Just because it was staged for a liberal protest doesn't make it "authentic."
We have rated this Snopes "fact check" as Deeply Distorted. For similar analyses, please visit our Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers site.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.