‘It doesn’t matter if it’s 100% accurate’: Caravan conspiracies are GOP’s closing midterm argument

"It doesn’t matter if it's 100% accurate. This is the play."

Donald Trump in the South Court Auditorium near the White House on June 22, 2018. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump in the South Court Auditorium near the White House on June 22, 2018. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and his administration have settled on a closing argument for the midterm elections: Fabricated fear-mongering about a migrant caravan that is thousands of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

The caravan that conservatives can’t stop freaking out about is actually people of all ages from Central America who are making the dangerous journey because the conditions in their countries have become untenable due to violence, natural disasters, and brutal authoritarian crackdowns.

However, the spate of baseless claims made on Tuesday by Trump officials regarding this caravan provide the clearest sign yet that Republicans are attempting to make this manufactured crisis seem like a emergent reality in a last-ditch effort to salvage the upcoming midterm elections that many expect to take place against the backdrop of a “blue wave” of backlash to Trump. As Politico’s Gabby Orr and Daniel Lippman reported earlier this week, the president has already begun the process of assigning blame ahead of Election Day.

One of the administration’s gaudier claims — that “unknown Middle Easterners” were among those in the caravan — led to an especially comical pile-up. After Trump was made to admit that “there [was] no proof” of his assertion that “unknown Middle Easterners” were among the group of immigrants, Vice President Mike Pence attempted to come to the president’s defense at a separate event in Washington, D.C., saying, “It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border.”


But the president and vice president were not the only members of the U.S. government who were busy fear-mongering about the caravan on Tuesday.

Tyler Q. Houlton, Press Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), warned about supposed gang members who are, again, thousands of miles away from America in a Twitter thread.

Claiming asylum at a port of entry along the U.S. border is legal, so “those who seek to come to America” in the caravan would be doing so “the right and legal way.”


A DHS official declined to offer clarifications to Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Epstein, after she asked whether the allegations in Houlton’s Twitter thread were actually about members of the caravan.

But DHS’ ambiguous accusations about the migrants were nevertheless good enough for White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to present them for public consumption, tweeting, “this wouldn’t be happening if Democrats for once did their jobs and joined Republicans to fully fund the wall” on Tuesday evening.

Sanders followed that tweet by claiming Democrats were responsible for the manufactured crisis and “thank[ing] God” for Trump.

The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that Trump administration officials know full well that the “aggressive, end-of-the-campaign effort to drum up fear among voters” is not accurate. The White House has, nevertheless, settled on a strategy of aggressively lying to the American people in the last few days before the midterm elections.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “This is the play.”

A former Trump adviser told the Washington Post the manufactured caravan crisis is a “political gift” to Republicans and that he wished the migrants “were carrying heroin.”

Prominent Republicans have echoed the baseless conspiracy theories being pushed by the White House.

Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) suggested George Soros could be funding the caravan during an interview with Fox News on Monday. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) wondered if Soros was behind the migrants’ movement in a tweet last week.


It is not clear why George Soros would provide the funding for something that Republicans see as a “political gift” to their midterm hopes. It is similarly mysterious why Republicans would then criticize Soros for providing this assistance. In related news, the FBI is investigating an explosive device that was mailed to Soros’ home on Monday.

Conservative media is also doing its part to make the caravan of migrants seem dangerous. On Monday, Fox & Friends — Trump’s favorite morning “news source” — said Democrats are too outraged by Saudi Arabia’s apparent execution of Jamal Khashoggi and not outraged enough about the migrant caravan. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham bizarrely claimed the caravan could bring diseases “we haven’t had for decades” a day later.

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz and the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale have documented the spread of the conservative caravan smears, noting tha right-wing websites like Infowars, Gateway Pundit, and The Blaze were pushing the conspiracy theories before they started being amplified by Fox News and Trump’s administration. The New York Times’ James Poniewozik noted the numerous similarities to conspiracy theories about Ebola and ISIS that were being pushed by right-wingers before the 2014 midterm elections.

The New York Times’ Kevin Roose tweeted that all of the top-performing content about caravans on Facebook, where conservatives claim they are being censored even though it’s not true, are from right-wing websites.

In his ongoing role as Fox News’ unofficial on-air ombudsman, Shepard Smith pushed back on the conservative conspiracy theories on Tuesday.

Multiple reporters traveling with the caravan have found no proof of Trump’s allegations.

The scare tactics from Team Trump and conservative media have made the migrant caravan a major issue for some voters.

Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state.

“What’s to stop them?” said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. “We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.”

Trump’s sustained campaign of deception as the midterm elections approach has not been limited to these baseless claims about this caravan. In recent days, Trump has claimed that Congress is going to deliver a middle-class tax cut by November, that Californians are rioting over sanctuary cities, that “Republicans will always protect people with pre-existing conditions,” and that Democrats planned to give luxury automobiles to undocumented immigrants. In each instance, a lie.