Since the Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy on May 7, a reported 2,000 immigrant children have been forcefully separated from their parents. Horrific stories of young children being taken from their breastfeeding parents, and a 10-year-old child with Down syndrome being separated from her mother, have gripped the nation and, most recently, news casters. On Tuesday night viewers watched Rachel Maddow cry on air as she attempted to read a breaking news bulletin from the Associated Press, describing what the Trump administration is calling "tender age" shelters and the conditions of the babies and toddlers who are being sent to them. And in that moment, the wall between news broadcaster and viewer was broken. In that moment, Maddow was all of us. Or, well, at least some of us.
The moment occurred during the end of her show, and while Maddow was attempting to read a news report from the Associated Press. The report announced the existence of at least three Texas facilities currently holding migrant babies and toddlers. Unable to read the descriptions, and at first asking her producers to put a graphic on screen in an attempt to take the cameras off her, Maddow abruptly ended her show, saying, "I think I’m going to have to hand this off, sorry."
Maddow later apologized for crying on air via Twitter, writing, "Ugh, I'm sorry. If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I'm on TV. What I was trying to do — when I suddenly couldn't say/do anything —was read this lede." She then shared what she intended to read on air, but couldn't get through. It reads as follows:
Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the "tender age" shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents. The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” said Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, “Toddlers are being detained."
Maddow ended her Twitter thread by, again, apologizing for crying, writing, "Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile." She then linked to the AP story; a subtle encouragement to her viewers and Twitter followers to read it in its entirety.
Meanwhile, on Fox News, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski replied to Zac Petkana, a Democratic strategist, recalling a report of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome being forcefully separated from her mother under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy by saying, in a mocking tone, "Whomp whomp."
There have been harrowing reports of migrant children being detained in cages, sometimes 20 to a cage. In photos you can see children sleeping on mats on the ground, covered in space blankets. In audio released by ProPublica on Monday, you can hear immigrant children cry out for their mothers and fathers as they are being separated inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention center. You can also hear agents mocking the children, one saying, "Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, two-thirds of Americans don't agree with the Trump administration's decision to separate migrant children from their families. The same poll, however, found that 55 percent of Republican voters do support the policy.
The collective conscience of the United States of America is being tested, and there seems to be two polarizing reactions to Trump's "zero tolerance" policy: be so impacted by the thought of children in cages, crying for their mothers, that you break down in tears... or simply saying "whomp whomp" before you look the other way.