Fact Check: A Seattle Times Op-Ed Claimed that CBP Agents Wielded Whips Against Migrants

The author asked for the reference to be changed, and the article has been corrected.

An op-ed published by the Seattle Times on Tuesday mentions “images of Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping Haitian asylum seekers at the Texas-Mexico border” and “whip-wielding Border Patrol agents,” referencing viral images from the past few weeks that some claimed  showed Border Patrol agents on horseback striking Haitian asylum seekers with whips.

The photographer behind the pictures, Paul Ratje, told local media that the pictures were “misconstrued.” “I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” Ratje said. 

El Paso Times reporter Martha Pskowski was also on the scene and reported that a Border Patrol agent on horseback “menacingly swung his reins like a whip,” though the article notes that the agent used his reins, “not an actual whip.”

The reports from Ratje and Pskowki align with comments made by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who explained that, “to ensure control of the horse, long reins are used.” Further, the Associated Press reported:  “There was no sign in photos and videos viewed by The Associated Press that the mounted agents were carrying whips or using their reins as such when confronting the migrants.” In the same AP article,  the reporters note that “one Border Patrol agent on horseback was seen twirling his long leather reins in a menacing way at the Haitian migrants, but not actually striking anyone.” Washington Post correspondent Phillip Bump noted this as well, pointing out that “Neither Pskowski nor Ratje describe seeing anyone struck by the objects, though Ratje said he did see a migrant almost trampled.”

Dr. Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, the author of the Seattle Times op-ed told The Dispatch Fact Check that the article had been submitted to the Seattle Times “on the day the videos/images of the Border Patrol agents in Texas first emerged.” Godoy said that she wrote to the Seattle Times opinion editor requesting that the now-inaccurate language be changed but has not received a response. “I understand that since I wrote the article, it's been revealed that the Border Patrol agents had reins, not whips; as such, the words ‘whip-wielding’ in my article are inaccurate, and I take responsibility for my error,” said Godoy. 

Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley admitted the mistake in an email to The Dispatch Fact Check and said “we have corrected the error.” The article now includes a correction noting the inaccuracy. 

The Border Patrol did not respond to a request for comment.

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