June 21, 2018

Husband: Mother and Crying 2 Year-Old in ‘Iconic’ Border Photo Were Never Separated

(UPDATE: In what has to be considered a surprise move, CBS News has followed up on the story. The related follow-up post is here.)

Pictures may sometimes be worth 1,000 words, but they often either don’t tell the whole story or tell a misleading one. Significant issues have emerged with what the press has read into the “iconic” photo taken of a crying two year-old at the U.S.-Mexico border by Getty Images photographer John Moore. The most important one, according to a UK Daily Mail interview with the girl’s father left behind in Honduras with the couple’s other three children, is that mother and daughter “were never separated by border control agents and remain together.”

Moore appears to have tried to be careful in captioning his photo and in describing its circumstances in interviews. The same cannot be said of others referring to it and reacting to it, many of whom, as will be shown in this post, have effectively created fake news in describing it.

Despite Moore’s apparent care, the Daily Mail interview points to a serious problem with his photo’s initial description.

Moore has posted the photo twice at Instagram. His initial post’s description of it on June 13, while it did not assume mother-daughter separation, still told readers that their separation was a policy-based certainty.

In a Tuesday CBS News interview (at the 1:43 mark), Moore, when asked if he knows “where that little girl is now,” was tentative:

I wish I could say. When they take people away to the processing center, they don’t give you information on what happens next.

A side-by-side comparison of the text of the photographer’s original post to his June 19 post, which reacted to the photo’s widespread response, reveals that Moore, in what was almost certainly a conscious move, added an important qualifying word (highlights, bolds and italics are mine):


The word “frequent” in the June 19 description obviously means “not always,” contradicting Moore’s original description of what the Trump administration’s policy “calls for.”

Why did Moore add “frequent”? Perhaps it’s because he had somehow already learned by June 19 what the Daily Mail reported Thursday afternoon after interviewing Denis Javier Varela Hernandez about his wife, Sandra Sanchez, and their two year-old daughter Yanela Denise:


Given the press’s obsession over parents and crying children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, it seems more than appropriate in the circumstances Denis Hernandez described, if true, to make these points:

  • Sandra Sanchez has voluntarily separated herself from her husband and three of her four children, all of whom probably wept when learning that the two had left without even saying goodbye.
  • Sandra Sanchez has torn two year-old daughter Yanela Denise away from her father and her three older siblings.
  • Again based on what Denis Hernandez has told the Daily Mail, supposedly heartless and cruel U.S. federal authorities have been more interested in keeping Sandra Sanchez and Yanela Denise together than Sandra has been in keeping her family together.

Sadly, we probably know whether or not any U.S. media outlets will disclose or follow up on what the Daily Mail has found. The smart money is on: “Not a chance.”

(UPDATE: In what has to be considered a surprise move, CBS News has followed up on the story. The related follow-up post is here.)

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.


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