Following the 2018 midterm elections, the migrant caravan—the one President Trump and the Republican Party insisted was a grave national-security crisis—has largely disappeared from GOP messaging. Trump has almost completely stopped talking about it in public, as have the Trumpist conspiracy theorists at Infowars.
The president’s allies at conservative cable-news giant Fox News, however, don’t seem to have gotten the memo.
A survey of recent transcripts recorded on the TV monitoring service TVEyes shows Fox News running at least 30 segments mentioning the caravan in the week since the midterm elections.
Leading Fox News personalities seemed self-aware of the suggestions during the election that concern about the caravan would end along with the need to scare voters to the polls.
“The Central American migrant caravan is still snaking towards to the U.S. border,” Brian Kilmeade, a co-host on one of Trump’s all-time favorite shows, Fox & Friends, said on Friday. “Now President Trump is responding to its approach by tightening U.S. asylum laws.”
“I’m doing this segment because you get a lot of heat on social media,” host and Trump pal Jesse Watters said on his show Saturday. “They say, ‘You know, Fox News, once the election is over, you guys stopped covering the caravan.’ Well, Watters World is covering the caravan, and we’re telling you: It’s continuing to head north.”
Fox’s continued coverage of the caravan after the midterms diverges from the strategy of other Trump-aligned outlets that appear to have moved on from the allegedly fearsome migrants in the caravan.
Over at Infowars, the conspiracy-theory-mongering website led by the Trump-endorsed Alex Jones, the caravan has been relegated to an afterthought. In the six days ahead of the election, Infowars ran more than 20 articles with “caravan” in the headline, along with many others related to the caravan and Trump’s military deployment to the border. In the six days after the election, Infowars has run all of two stories with “caravan” in the headline.
Even President Trump doesn’t look like he’s trying anymore. As of Monday night, the word “caravan” hasn’t appeared on his frenetic Twitter page since the last day of October, and the subject has been all but dropped from his daily messaging and salvos. During a post-midterms, White House press conference last week, Trump uttered the word “caravan” once—but only to mention, “I’m not just talking about the caravans” when talking about militarizing the southern border and his proposed wall.
In one of his several caravan-related tweets in the build-up to the election, the president appeared to acknowledge the explicitly partisan nature of his and his party’s aggressive push, posting, “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms!”
As the final countdown to election night was underway, top aides on Trump’s team weren’t shy about dishing privately on this calculus, facts be damned.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast late last month, referring to Trumpworld’s pre-election caravan onslaught, which demagogued a large group of impoverished, largely Honduran migrants, many of whom are fleeing bloodshed and persecution. “This is the play.”
The “play” was built on subverting and dominating the 24-hour news cycle, moving it away from Democrats’ preferred terrain of healthcare and toward Trump’s immigration crackdown. That ended on election day.
The RNC’s weekly “pundit prep” talking points, meant to help prepare conservative surrogates discussing the week’s news, sent days before the election and obtained by The Daily Beast underscored that “as the migrant caravan continues to make its way to our southern border, President Trump has announced that he will deploy troops to provide additional support to border patrol agents in Texas, Arizona and California. While Democrats have dug in their heels and allowed the immigration crisis to spiral out of control, President Trump is taking tangible steps to secure our border.”
In the most recent “pundit prep” email, sent three days after the election, the term “caravan” goes conspicuously unmentioned.
Still, the White House is at least claiming that Trump continues to carry the burden of not just one, but supposedly multiple scary caravans.
“The Caravans are expanding rapidly and the threat to our sovereignty, security and entire immigration system is grave and growing,” Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary, told The Daily Beast Monday evening, in an email responding to a question about the administration’s sudden silence.
“Addressing this dangerous situation remains a top priority across the Administration; it’s unfortunate the establishment media has spent months trying to downplay the caravan and the border crisis and still continues to do so even as these threats become more hazardous every day,” Gidley continued.
Marc Lotter, a member of Trump's 2020 advisory board and former press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, acknowledged on Monday that there has been a steep decline in Trumpworld’s public energy on the issue—but he contended that it’s simply because the news cycle has moved on, and last week might as well have been an eternity ago.
“Part of” the drop-off in caravan talk “is because we’ve gone into post-midterm mode,” Lotter said. “The narrative has changed because of the time we find ourselves in. I don’t think it has anything to do [with something] other than that we’re in that post-election mode where people are analyzing what happened.”
Lotter pointed out that the Trump administration is “still doing the actual work… behind the scenes,” even if they’ve gone into rhetorical retrenchment. On Friday, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation aimed at barring migrants who illegally cross the U.S. border from Mexico from seeking the right of asylum. As The Daily Beast previously reported, the proclamation was authored by Stephen Miller, Trump’s hard-line, anti-immigration senior policy adviser.
Though on virtually all the GOP propaganda organs the word “caravan” evaporated as quickly as it first appeared, it’s not because top Republicans have stopped spreading disinformation about the 2018 midterms altogether.
The president and numerous other prominent Republicans have merely moved on from one midterms-related fallacy and scare-tactic to another: They’re now busy claiming, sans evidence, that there’s rampant, anti-conservative fraud threatening elections in Florida and Arizona.
“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump claimed on Twitter Monday morning. “An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
—With additional reporting by Will Sommer