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Tuesday, September 17, 2019
MRC Blames Media For Trump Administration's Botched Rollout of Citizenship Change
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's Scott Whitlock huffed in an Aug. 29 post:

It hasn’t been a good week for NBC. First, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell had to retract a bombshell claim that Donald Trump’s taxes showed loans co-signed by Russian oligarchs. Now, MSNBC has backed down on an assertion that “children born to U.S. service members outside of the U.S. will no longer be automatically considered citizens. Parents will have to apply for citizenship for their children in those situations.”

That was tweeted by Ken Dilanian, an NBC news correspondent who covers national security, on Wednesday afternoon. Less than an hour later, he issued a correction.


It’s not surprising that journalists rushed to get this story not [sic], not bothering to study the facts.

In fact, the blame belongs to Trump administration officials who botched the explanation of the change so badly that journalists got it wrong. Even conservatives -- and the MRC's "news" division -- concede that. Cully Stimson, "a leading expert in national security, homeland security, crime control, immigration, and drug policy at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies," wrote in a Sept. 4 column:

The way the policy was rolled out led many to believe that the Trump administration was ending birthright citizenship for children born to U.S. citizens stationed overseas, which naturally would have been a big deal.It did no such thing.  

Rather than briefing stakeholders and the media before the rollout, or explaining how the policy would work once in force, or even publishing “frequently asked questions” along with the policy—all standard ways to roll out new policies—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services just published a poorly written policy change that caused an immediate firestorm.

Media outlets, politicians, and scores of military personnel stationed overseas thought the policy change ended birthright citizenship for children born to U.S. citizens working for the federal government or military stationed overseas.

The backlash was so quick and aggressive that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting Director Ken Cuccinelli issued a statement the same day saying:

“This policy update does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period. This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship. This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”

Cuccinelli even went on a popular Washington, D.C., morning radio show to explain what the policy did, and more importantly, did not do.

But it was too late.

Senior leaders in the military, State Department, and elsewhere started asking questions and demanding answers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi even tweeted that the Trump administration was ending birthright citizenship for U.S. citizens stationed overseas.

In an attempt to get back control of the narrative, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also published an update designed to clarify the policy and a flowchart that identifies whom the policy applies to.

But by then, the damage had been done.

Stimson added: "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should have made the policy clear from the get-go."

Will Whitlock and MRC retract its bogus blame of the media for something the Trump administration screwed up? Don't count on it.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:45 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2019 7:32 PM EDT

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