This week, the Trump Administration took steps to ensure that new immigrants will not be a financial burden on taxpayers. The policy isn’t new. It simply revises and clarifies the language of a rule that has been in effect for well over a century. Here’s the New York Post explaining the move:

The rule will go into effect ​Oct. 15 and will​ expand the definition of “public charge,” which Congress first approved in 1882 to ensure immigrants are self-sufficient.

The new rule will define a “public charge” as someone who receives one or more benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period and who needs a wide range of public assistance, including Medicaid, housing vouchers or help buying food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

It updates guidelines, on the books since 1999, that defined the term as someone who is “primarily dependent” on the government and who received cash benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

It is, of course, completely logical, practical, and morally appropriate to ensure that those who come to this country will be able and willing to care for themselves. We have soup kitchens and daycare centers in America, but America itself is not a soup kitchen or a daycare center. We are a nation, and just like any other nation, we are not equipped to provide free food and housing to the entire population of the world. Immigrants should come here with the intention of pitching in and contributing to the growth and stability of our society. Those who wish to take advantage of that growth and stability, rather than contribute to it, should be weeded out and rejected. There is nothing shocking, revolutionary, or even unique about this idea.

This is all necessary background to understand the insidious lies the media has been telling over the past couple of days. I am not naive enough to be surprised by dishonesty from the media, but this has been beyond the pale. Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official, was interviewed by NPR about the policy shift. During the course of the discussion, the host asked Cuccinelli how Trump’s approach to immigration squares with the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Cuccinelli could have simply responded that the poem is nice but irrelevant because it has no bearing on law or policy. We don’t make laws in this country by engraving a poem in bronze and attaching it to a large statue. That would be an interesting legislative system, but it’s not our system. Instead, Cuccinelli said that the United States wants the “tired” and “poor” who can “stand on their own two feet.” A perfectly valid and coherent response — that the media seized and twisted into oblivion.

Immediately after the interview concluded, the headlines started pouring in:

“Cuccinelli rewrites Statue of Liberty poem to make case for limiting immigration”

“Trump immigration official offers rewrite for Statue of Liberty poem

“The Trump Team rewrites the Statue of Liberty”

Et cetera and so on.

These are all absurd lies. Cuccinelli never rewrote, or suggested that we rewrite, or even said anything about rewriting the poem on the Statue of Liberty. He also isn’t the one who brought up the poem. He was asked a question about whether the policy is consistent with the poem — which, again, doesn’t matter anyway — and he provided an answer. But this is a trick that the media loves to pull. They ask you a weird and irrelevant question, you answer it, and they report your answer as if you were the one who brought up the subject. A petty and disingenuous little ploy. And they weren’t done with Cuccinelli just yet.

Later in the day, he appeared on CNN with Erin Burnett to lend some clarity to the situation. He was asked again about the poem and this time tried to explain that the rather harsh language — calling immigrants “wretched refuse,” etc. — was originally in reference to the class-based systems in Europe. The media leapt into action with even worse headlines this time around:

Statue of Liberty poem was only supposed to welcome white immigrants ‘from Europe,’ Cuccinelli says

“Immigration official Ken Cuccinelli: Statue of Liberty poem refers to immigrants from Europe”

“Ken Cuccinelli: Statue Of Liberty Poem About ‘People Coming From Europe’”

The obvious implication here is that Cuccinelli was trying to suggest that only European immigrants are welcome. The Huffington Post made this implication explicit in its sub-header: “Trump’s citizenship and immigration chief followed up his earlier comments about the famous Emma Lazarus poem with a racist clarification.”

In reality, he was giving necessary context to the poem in an effort to explain who the “wretched refuse” were, and why that language was used. His point, obviously, was that accepting “wretched refuse” doesn’t mean accepting non-contributors who only want to exploit America’s welfare system. Rather, it means accepting contributing and self-sufficient people from lower classes in society. But, again, Cuccinelli isn’t the one harping on the damn poem. It is the media that has decided to focus this entire conversation around the words on a plaque affixed to the Statue of Liberty.

Let us now review what has transpired over the past 24 hours or so: A Trump immigration official answered a question on NPR. The media lied about the question and his answer. That official then went on CNN to clarify, and the media lied about his clarification. Undoubtedly, they will lie about whatever he says in response to their latest round of lies. And on and on, into infinity.

We know that the news media is filled with hacks, charlatans, and partisan smear merchants, but this has been an especially despicable performance, even by their lowly standards. It’s no wonder Trump calls them the enemy of the people.

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