CNN’s Cuomo Lashes Out at Arizona Sheriff; Accuses Him of ‘Villainizing’ Illegal Immigrant Children

On Wednesday’s New Day on CNN, co-host Chris Cuomo invited on Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu and proceeded to accuse him of misinformation, “blowing” the crisis of illegal immigration “out of proportion,” distracting his community “about the plan from Obama” and “villainizing these kids” by wondering if some were members of drug gangs.

In the nearly 12-minute interview, Cuomo continued to stand against anyone who disagreed with his own personal agenda on immigration, which apparently includes anyone who raises questions to the federal government about the status of illegal immigrant children in the United States.

Cuomo’s supposed evidence against Babeu included a video of him speaking to a group of protesters in the town of Oracle after word came from Babeu’s office that a group of children would be arriving to be held and processed. One would think it would be a clip of him saying something outrageously offensive. However, he said nothing “risky” or worthy of creating “a dangerous situation,” as Cuomo suggested. He simply asked the crowd if the federal government “should be here to answer” why children are being brought there and the crowd agreed. Nothing more.

Not to be deterred, Cuomo went full speed ahead in demonizing Babeu. He said to him after the clip aired that: 

You know, I'm not saying you don't have a legitimate question, but that's not keeping the peace. That's riling up people there who are already angry and I'm sure you understand that. I just want to point out a couple of things you said and see if I can get some clarification on it. 

Next, for speculating that an undetermined number of the children are here with bad motives, he told Babeu that “there is reason to suspect some may be there,” but “[w]hy paint them all with that brush? Why prejudice this population with what may be true just about a few?”

The segment was not complete without a mention of President Obama as Cuomo badgered Babeu for “riling” his community “up about the government” and “distracting them about the plan from Obama.”

When Babeu said that federal law needs to be enforced as his deputies are seeing some people being deported over and over again, Cuomo turned up the heat: “Do you address it by villainizing these kids? Do you address it by villainizing these kids?”

Babeu was in a state of shock and frustration for much of the remaining segment and even reminded Cuomo that “I’m the one on your show” and thus should be allowed to answer questions.

After repeating the villainization line of questioning, Cuomo ended by remarking to Babeu that “I’m not saying you’re a villain,” but he should also take into account “the humanitarian aspect here” and “don’t fear monger.” 

Despite what Cuomo said, Townhall's Katie Pavlich reported on July 8 that violent gang members from the notorious group MS-13 left graffiti on bathroom walls of an Arizona processing center for illegal immigrant children and that 16 children admitted to their role in the gang. Three days later, Pavlich reported that MS-13 had been using that same processing center as a recruitment hub.

After going off on immigration Monday and his co-host attacking other government officials who are simply looking for answers from the Obama administration, it is clear that New Day’s covering this issue with a less than neutral perspective.

The relevant portions of the transcript from the July 16 segment on New Day can be found transcribed below.

CNN's New Day

July 16, 2014

7:08 a.m. Eastern

BABEU: Well, it's not just the kids as we have enough issues and concerns here with drug smugglers and with the 123,000 illegals that were apprehended in this sector alone just in one year, so, yes, we do have our hands full here in Arizona. 

CUOMO: Sheriff, they are not being released into your community. They are going to be held, detained. Is it misleading to say they are going to add to your troubles when they are not going to add to your community? 

BABEU: Well, we have no information to lead me to believe one way or the other, and that's where I've asked the question. It's never been answered, and this supposed to be a republic with a transparent government, and not only do I have questions, legitimate I believe from a law enforcement and public health perspective, but certainly the citizens of the county who live there, want answers....


CUOMO: Well, I understand that issue, but you do seem to be blowing it out of proportion a little bit. You say they are going to, you know, hurt my community. You don't know that....You could have created a dangerous situation. Most of the people coming are kids. Don't you think that was a little risky? 

BABEU: Not at all. If you know where Oracle, Arizona, is, and where this location is, there's only one road to get in here, and what I did is talking to all the organizers and protesters, I did this myself, not only asking for calm, trying to set up two different locations, and the members of the community have not only legitimate concerns, they want to be heard. Everything went fine yesterday outside of arguing. 

CUOMO: Well, it may have gone fine, but you didn't help it stay calm. Take a listen to what you said just so everyone else knows. Take a listen to this. 

BABEU: This is where, if the federal government is sending 40 to 60 unaccompanied juveniles, do you think they should be here to answer, to talk about that? 



BABEU: And this is where that needs to be discussed. 


CUOMO: There is reason to suspect some may be there, but you're talking about tens of thousands of people who are here now, many children. Why paint them all with that brush? Why prejudice this population with what may be true just about a few? 

BABEU: Well, and here you mischaracterize what I said, and I qualified those remarks. We know for a fact that through screening in Texas that there have been documented cases. I said I don't know how many there are.


CUOMO: You're riling them up about the government. 

BABEU: That's not scaring people. 

CUOMO: You're distracting them about the plan from Obama. You’re saying this $3.7 billion, it's a waste. It's going to exactly what you say you want, more judges to process the cases – 


BABEU: This is not going -- this is not going to secure the border because there's no enforcement of the law. When we have illegals who are deported 10, 12, 15 times that my deputies are encountering on a daily and on a weekly basis, that in law enforcement we call a clue. The law is not being enforced when it comes to immigration. 

CUOMO: That's true and it has to be addressed. 

BABEU: The law applies to you and me. 

CUOMO: That’s true and it has to be addressed. 

BABEU: Then let’s address it.

CUOMO: Do you address it by villainizing these kids? Do you address it by villainizing these kids?

BABEU: How is that – I'm asking questions. 

CUOMO: You're writing them off as gang members. You’re trying to scare your community about what they’ll do.

BABEU: There's no response from the federal government. 

CUOMO: I understand that you're frustrated with the federal government. I get it, but why villanize the kids?

BABEU: Chris, I had a town hall with 300 – I had a town hall with 300 of these local residents –

CUOMO: Right. 

BABEU: – answering the questions that I didn't have a lot of information. This information was promised by the federal government. 

CUOMO: Right. 

BABEU: And there have been no response. 

CUOMO: But you're painting them as potential –  

BABEU: I'm the one who is on your show –   

CUOMO: You're painting them as potential gang members. That's not good, okay? We both know that. You haven't even met with some of these kids. 

BABEU: Some of these are potential gang members. 

CUOMO: I know, but you're making it sound like it's a given that you're going to get new gang bangers in your community, you know that. You know that that's how it's coming across to many people. You haven't met with the kids. You had an opportunity to do that. 

BABEU: Then answer the questions. No, I did not have – that's not true. 


CUOMO: Do you think you're making it better by villainizing these kids? 

BABEU: It’s not about villanizing – do I have a right to know who these kids are? 

CUOMO: Yes. 

BABEU: Especially in the light that my experience with the federal government.

CUOMO: But you don't have a right to suggest who they are when you don't know. Do you have a right to suggest who they are when you don't know? If you want to know, that’s a legitimate question, but don't assume that they are gang bangers. 

BABEU: We do know by fact -- well, we know for a fact through the screening in Texas that some number, we don't know what the number is, not just that, we had our own experience here 300 to 400 violent criminals, we do know for a fact were released in my county a year ago, so this is my experience and I'm speaking from my perspective in my county and my job is to protect the families of my county – 

CUOMO: I understand that.

BABEU: – not to protect the families of Central Americans. 

CUOMO: I understand, but you know that these kids are going to be, you know, housed in a facility, that they’re not just being released into the community and you know what my point is: Don't fear monger. You have a lot of legitimate issues here that are law enforcement and political, but just, you know the humanitarian aspect matters here. 


BABEU: So I'm not the villain here. 

CUOMO: I'm not saying you're a villain. You're a sheriff and I respect that, but I'm saying we don't want to villainize the kids either.

— Curtis Houck is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Curtis Houck on Twitter.