clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump dismisses FBI data, asks followers to trust him when he says border fence made El Paso safer

The president takes gaslighting to new levels.

Donald Trump Holds MAGA Rally In El Paso To Discuss Border Security
A Trump rally on February 11, 2019, in El Paso, Texas.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

During his rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, President Donald Trump asked his supporters to disregard federal government data showing that a border fence didn’t make El Paso safer, and instead believe his assertion that the construction of fencing along the southern border was responsible for a dramatic decrease in violent crime in the city.

Trump’s comments indicated he won’t let facts get in the way of selling his followers what he wants to sell them — and judging by the uproarious reaction he received, they’re willing to buy it.

“I spoke to people who have been here a long time,” Trump said, contrasting anecdotes with actual crime date. “They said when the wall went up — it’s a whole different ballgame. Is that a correct statement? Whole different ballgame.”

Trump went on to dismiss crime data presented by “the fake news” — even though the relevant numbers in fact come from the FBI — with an inscrutable rant about “past crimes”:

I heard the same thing from the fake news. They said, “Oh, crime actually stayed the same.” It didn’t stay the same. It went way down. And look at what they did to their past crimes, and look at how they recorded those past crimes. It went way, way down.

These people — you know, you’d think they’d want to get to the bottom of a problem, and solve a problem, not try and pull the wool over everybody’s eyes. So for those few people that are out there on television saying, “Oh, it didn’t make too much of a difference” — it made a tremend— people from El Paso, am I right? It’s fake news. I’m telling ya, it’s just fake news. And you know what? You wouldn’t even have to know, you can say that automatically without even knowing. It’s obvious, it’s common sense.

The reality is it’sTrump who is trying to “pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.”

The facts about El Paso’s border barrier and violent crime

Trump’s comments on Monday night echoed what he said about El Paso during his State of the Union speech last week — that fencing along its border with Ciudad Juárez installed during 2008 and 2009 directly reduced violent crime, even though data from the FBI says otherwise.

El Paso “used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities,” Trump said during SOTU. “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

There’s just one problem: Trump’s claim is false. Like many other American cities, violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily for about 25 years, and actually went up slightly after border fencing was installed.

CNN put together a draft depicting the negligible impact border fencing actually had on crime rates in El Paso.


According to crime data compiled by the El Paso Times, from 2006 to 2011, the violent crime rate in the city went up 17 percent.

So despite Trump would have his supporters believe, El Paso is not actually a case study of “walls” working.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”

Trump — who also blatantly lied about how many people attended the rally in El Paso — attacked the media throughout his speech. He didn’t even stop after a BBC camera operator was attacked by a man wearing a Trump hat.

Notably, Trump dissed fact-checkers, the journalists who regularly point out that he’s wrong about things like a border barrier’s impact on crime rates in El Paso, as “some of the most dishonest people in media.”

His goal, at least in part, seems to be to sow doubt that anything other than what he says is true.

Recall what Trump advised his supporters during a speech last July.

“Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump said. “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Along those lines, during his speech on Monday, Trump was flanked by huge “Finish the Wall” banners. But in reality, he has received no money from Congress to even start construction of the wall.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.