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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Amid criticism, Britt seeks to defend her misleading border comments

A screen at the U.S. Capitol shows Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) delivering the Republican Party’s official response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, in Washington on March 7, 2024. Speaking from her home in Montgomery, Ala., Britt gave a tonally jarring speech that toggled between strained cheerfulness and ominous warnings. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

By Maggie Astor

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., on Sunday sought to defend comments she made in her response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Thursday, when she described the experience of a woman who was sexually trafficked in Mexico between 2004 and 2008 in a way that falsely implied it had happened in the United States under Biden.

“No,” Britt said on “Fox News Sunday” when the host, Shannon Bream, asked whether she had intended to suggest that. She went on to argue that viewers should have parsed her wording to understand that she wasn’t referring to a recent case.

“I very clearly said I spoke to a woman who told me about when she was trafficked when she was 12,” she said. “I didn’t say a teenager. I didn’t say a young woman. A grown woman, a woman, when she was trafficked when she was 12.”

Britt’s story has received intense scrutiny since an independent journalist, Jonathan Katz, posted a video on TikTok on Friday highlighting the misleading framing. Former President Donald Trump praised Britt for her speech. But it has drawn criticism even from some Republicans, who questioned her delivery and her choice to speak from her kitchen, and “Saturday Night Live” mocked it.

After criticizing some of Biden’s immigration policies in his first 100 days in office — including a halt to border-wall construction, though construction has since continued, and a pause on some deportations, which she falsely described as his having “stopped all deportations” — Britt said in the Fox interview that she had referred to the woman, Karla Jacinto Romero, because Jacinto is an advocate for the welfare of victims of similar crimes that are “happening now at an astronomical rate.”

She said human trafficking had grown into a $13 billion industry from a $500 million industry in 2018. That statistic is from 2022, meaning the increase came over a four-year period roughly equally divided between the Trump and Biden administrations.

“We have to tell those stories, and the liberal media needs to pay attention to it, because there are victims all the way coming to the border, there are victims at the border and then there are victims all throughout our country,” Britt said. “And to me, it is disgusting to try to silence the voice of telling the story of what it is like to be sex trafficked when we know that that is one of the things that the drug cartels are profiting most off of.”

Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, noted that congressional Republicans opposed a bipartisan border-security deal earlier this year. The bill stalled after Trump came out against it, indicating that he didn’t want it to pass because Republicans might not be able to keep campaigning on a border crisis.

“Instead of telling more debunked lies to justify opposing the toughest bipartisan border legislation in modern history, Sen. Britt should stop choosing human smugglers and fentanyl traffickers over our national security and the Border Patrol Union,” Bates said.

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