A CNN producer denied participating in a staged event after questions arose about the circumstances surrounding footage of the purported crossing of the Rio Grande by migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"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," tweeted CNN's head of strategic communications Matt Dornic on Thursday.
Doric was responding to claims that they recorded footage of a staged event and presented it to their viewers as a real border crossing. The video shows a masked figure leading migrants across the Rio Grande in a boat near the city of Hidalgo, Texas.
"The Rio Grande Valley has been ground zero for the latest surge in migration and here you see the operation unfolding right in front of us," said reporter Ed Lavandera in the CNN report. "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."
Immigrants rights advocates and others found many reasons to be skeptical about whether the CNN crew had stumbled upon a migrant smuggling boat. The American Prospect, a progressive news outlet, documented the objections:
In the CNN footage, the smuggler leading the boat wears fatigues and a black ski mask. 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.
The Guardian also reported that the part of the Rio Grande where CNN filmed was one that was controlled by U.S. Border Patrol and could not be navigated by smugglers.
National Butterfly Center executive director Marianna Treviño Wright said that Lavandera might have known it was staged and recorded it for the ratings.
"They either duped Ed Lavandera into doing this or he's so desperate for ratings he went along with it," said Wright.
Here's the questionable report from CNN:
CNN witnesses dozens of migrants trying to cross Rio Grande www.youtube.com