Burying Facts: WashPost Skipped Immigration Status In Muslim Girl's Brutal Rape, Murder

April 9th, 2019 3:39 PM

On March 26, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron lectured that the Trump administration was trying to disqualify the media as an "independent arbiter of facts." He lamented that facts are apparently based on "tribe" these days: 'Well, it's a fact if it's good for my tribe, and it's not a fact if it's bad for my tribe, and that's not what a fact is."

Two days later, the Post proved once again that they bury "bad for my tribe" facts...like a killer and rapist being an illegal immigrant. A story by reporter Justin Jouvenal on the killing of Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen began: 

Nabra Hassanen’s family and friends spent two years trying to understand her killer: What would possess a man to randomly abduct a teen walking to her mosque, bludgeon her with a baseball bat, rape her and then dump her body in a pond?

Darwin Martinez Torres, 25, had never provided a true answer since that horrific night in June 2017.

This story on Torres being sentenced to life in prison was just the latest in a long pattern. In fact, the Post published 11 news stories (and a Petula Dvorak column) in the print edition in 2017 and another four news stories in 2018 that blatantly avoided the fact that Torres was an illegal alien.  (There were a scattering of blogs and letters to the editor with the same avoidance.) In May 2018, Jouvenal wrote two articles exclusively about Torres with the same problem.

The entire March 28 story never mentioned that Torres was in the country illegally. Jouvenal did note that the immigrant's lawyer, Joseph Flood, claimed his client "has an IQ of 68 or less and is probably intellectually disabled from exposure to neurotoxins from a mine near his childhood home in El Salvador" and as a child "experienced and witnessed horrific abuse and degradation." 

We noted right after the killing that the Post showed this typical tic of skipping immigration status: Torres was described only as a "22-year-old construction worker from Sterling." In paragraph 23, they briefly mentioned a D-word, that "U.S. immigration officials requested that a 'detainer' be placed on him at the county jail, meaning they are interested in possible future deportation proceedings."

The first use of the I-word came on August 26, 2018...when the Post worried that exploring the idea that Torres had ties to the murderous Salvadoran gang MS-13 was going to enable Team Trump:


News of a possible MS-13 angle in a case that grabbed national attention could have reverberations beyond the trial, since President Trump and his allies have highlighted violence committed by gang members and undocumented immigrants to advocate for hard-line immigration policies....

Immigration authorities have also said Torres, who is originally from El Salvador, entered the country illegally.

The Post was the best and most persistent example of fact avoidance, but others did the same right after the crime. Nick Fondacaro noted CBS and NBC spiked the illegal-alien angle. Alex Xenos had more.

We didn't note NPR skipped the angle in a May 22, 2017 Morning Edition piece and a May 24, 2017 "Barbershop" panel discussion with Muslims on Weekend All Things Considered decrying Islamophobia in America. (The usual joke re-surfaces: they couldn't possibly consider that deporting illegal immigrants could prevent brutal crimes.) 

This pattern of fact-burying underlines why many people shake their heads when editors like Marty Baron bloviate about being an "independent arbiter of facts" when they act like politicians who sit and spin in newspaper buildings.