Texas Tribune Smears Sheriff Over Immigrant Crime Claim

Outlet subsequently tweeted out correction, amended article

The Texas Tribune corrected an article Thursday that took a Texas sheriff's words out of context to smear him.

The paper initially claimed the sheriff referred to immigrants as "drunks who would run over your children and they will run over my children" before amending the article to include necessary context. The sheriff was specifically referring to illegal immigrants who are repeat criminal offenders, and was not trying to generalize about all immigrants.

The Tribune published a write-up of a White House press conference featuring ICE director Matt Albence with the headline, "Texas sheriff says migrants are ‘drunks' who will ‘run over your children' during White House press briefing."

The headline was changed to "Texas sheriff at White House briefing: If criminal immigrants are released, ‘drunks' will ‘run over your children.'"

The Tribune also tweeted a correction to the article's original smear and deleted a previous tweet promoting the story. The initial tweet repeated the claim in the original headline.

During the press conference, sheriff Bill Waybourn said that a small percentage of the county's inmate population are illegal aliens being held for offenses ranging from murder to driving while intoxicated.

"Of those people that we have in custody, we know for a fact that 72 percent of them are repeat offenders," Waybourn said. "So if we have to turn them loose or they get released, they're coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood. These drunks will run over your children and they will run over my children."

He added that releasing these repeat offenders "will put our communities in jeopardy."

The Tribune led its original article by omitting Waybourn's specific reference to illegal immigrants who have criminal convictions:

A Texas sheriff called undocumented immigrants "drunks who would run over your children and they will run over my children" during a Thursday morning White House press briefing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence.

"If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they're coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood. These drunks will run over your children and they will run over my children," Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn [said].

The article's opening paragraphs now include Waybourn's use of statistics to clarify his points about repeat offenders:

A Texas sheriff spoke at a Thursday morning White House press briefing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence and said that if law enforcement were forced to release undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions from jails, it would put the public at risk.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn said about 7% of the 4,200 inmates in his county jail are undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes including murder, sexual assault of a child and driving while intoxicated — and 72% are repeat offenders. He then made reference to a federal court ruling by a California judge — he didn't specify which judge or what the ruling did — and said, "If we return them with this radical ruling out of California where you have a federal judge making law for the nation, or attempting to, it will put our communities in jeopardy."

"If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they're coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood," he said. "These drunks will run over your children and they will run over my children."

The article also includes a correction at the end.

Waybourn added at the press briefing "I understand that many of these migrants come across that river down there in Texas looking for a better day, for something better for their family. I don't think anybody disagrees with that."

"But the problem is the very people that they were fleeing who preyed upon them came with them. And that's who we're trying to initially eliminate out of our country."

State representative Chris Turner (D.) tweeted about the story with a link to a now-deleted tweet.

 

Waybourn is the sheriff of Tarrant County, the 15th-most populous county in the United States. It consists of Fort Worth and its suburbs.