Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not refer to illegal immigrants Tuesday as "filth," contrary to claims from a few media personalities.
Sessions delivered an address to a gathering of U.S. border agents. During his speech, the attorney general focused specifically on the issue of cartel violence in the United States.
A copy of his prepared remarks called for him to refer specifically to the MS-13 and Los Zetas gangs, and to label their activities as "filth." Though Sessions mentioned these infamous criminal enterprises in his speech, he didn't use the word "filth."
His larger point about cartel violence got lost, however, as certain members of the press soon tweeted out snippets of his remarks without the necessary context.
"Sessions to border agents, 'It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth,'" Politico's Josh Dawsey tweeted, linking to a Wall Street Journal report titled, "Undocumented Immigrants Who Commit Crimes Face Tougher Policy."
This is where the story falls apart.
The Wall Street Journal's report not only failed to provide the necessary context for the "filth" comment in Sessions' prepared remarks, but it failed also to note that the attorney general ultimately didn't use that word.
Professor and Washington Post contributor Daniel Drezner saw the Journal's report, and shared it with this added commentary: "Filth. He described illegal immigrants as 'filth.' Whatever your views on immigration that's f**king embarrassing for a US official to say."
Vox.com's Matthew Yglesias added in a separate note, "In other news, the Attorney-General pledged to rid the nation of the 'filth' of Latin American immigrants."
Foreign Policy's Molly O'Toole piled on with, "In case anyone was wondering how Sessions really feels about undocumented immigrants: 'filth.'"
Mashable's Chris Taylor added, "The Attorney General of the United States just called Mexican immigrants "filth." But by all means, keep being outraged about United."
"I realize there's a lot going on, but today Attorney General referred to Mexican undocumented immigrants as filth," the New Republic's Jeet Heer said.
The obvious, glaring problem with these remarks is they do not accurately represent what Sessions actually said.
Here is what the attorney general told border agents Tuesday:
"[A]long this border … transnational gangs like MS-13 and international cartels flood our country with drugs and leave death and violence in their wake. And it is here that criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document-forgers seek to overthrow our system of lawful immigration," he said.
Sessions added, "Let's stop here for a moment. When we talk about MS-13 and the cartels, what do we mean? We mean international criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into war-zones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings."
He concluded with this line: "It is here, on this sliver of land, on this border, where we first take our stand."
That's a long way off from what members of the press alleged Tuesday.
Drezner walked back his initial reaction eventually, tweeting, "Reading Sessions' prepared remarks I think I over-interpreted his language. Apologies for the quick Twitter trigger."
He fully owned his error Wednesday morning in an apology published by the Post.
Yglesias, naturally, is standing by his false charge, even in the face of facts.
As of this writing, Drezner's original tweet, which he has not deleted, has been shared by more than 4,000 social media users; Yglesias' more than 300 times.
O'Toole also has not deleted her false claim, and instead published a follow-up tweet defending the fabrication.
"Sessions prep remarks used 'filth' but didn't end up using. Rhetoric part of pattern overhyping/generalizing threat to US to justify policy," she said later Tuesday evening.
Heer deleted his original remark, but went on later to defend the idea that Sessions basically referred to all illegal immigrants as "filth."
Taylor has yet to issue any sort of correction.