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Photographer behind viral photo debunks narrative that Border Patrol agents on horseback 'whipped' Haitian refugees

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Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Paul Ratje — the photographer behind the viral images that many people claimed depicted U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping Haitian refugees who were attempting to cross the Rio Grande river and illegally enter the United States — said Thursday that the images are not at all what many people believed them to to be.

What are the details?

Ratje broke his silence on the stunning photos, which were taken on Sunday in Del Rio, Texas, and told KTSM-TV that neither he nor his colleagues ever saw any agents whipping anyone.

"Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses," he recalled. "That's kind of when the whole thing happened. I didn't ever see them whip anybody. ... He was swinging it, but I didn't see them actually whip someone with it. ... That's something that can be easily misconstrued when you're looking at the picture."

Massive outcry emerged after the videos made rounds in newspapers and across the internet, with many people — including White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris — saying that the photos were "horrific," disturbing, and more.

The uninformed hysteria only snowballed from there: President Joe Biden on Thursday even announced that border agents would no longer be permitted to uses horses after the false reporting emerged.

Psaki on Thursday told reporters that the U.S. government would "no longer be using horses in Del Rio."

"That is something, a policy change, that has been made in response," she added.

Psaki during a Monday White House briefing complained, "I have seen some of the footage. I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don't have additional details. I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it's acceptable or appropriate."

She added, "It's horrible to watch. I just have to get more information on it."

Harris said Thursday, "What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback, treating human beings the way they were, is horrible. And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there. But human beings should never be treated that way and I am deeply troubled by it."

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas added, "I was horrified by what I saw. I'm going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people."

"I, by no means, diminish the humane issue that it presents, but I want to be clear that we do have a plan to address it, respecting the needs of the individuals and we are executing on that plan," Mayorkas added.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) also raised eyebrows when she said the incident was "worse than slavery," and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added, "The images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol — including the use of whips — are unacceptable."

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