Media Manipulation: Father of Infamous ‘Crying Girl’ Confirms She Was Not Separated From Family

Media Manipulation: Father of Infamous ‘Crying Girl’ Confirms She Was Not Separated From Family

The image that has quickly become synonymous with the Trump administration’s controversial border policy which saw children separated from their families has, the girl’s father suggests, been used to feed a media agenda after it was confirmed the girl was not taken away from her family.

In a new interview with the Washington Post, the girl’s father Denis Javier Varela Hernandez clarified that his daughter was at no point separated from her parents. The revelation raises a number of questions, and has sparked debate across online forums. Is this one of the grandest media manipulations in recent history?

That TIME Magazine could run a cover depicting the child crying whilst stood alone opposite Trump — seemingly in sync with controversy surrounding the President’s hard-line on immigration control — is concerning in that a photograph entirely unrelated to the situation has been taken out of context and has been used to sensationalize the issue. It’s a clear manipulation, and a stark reminder of the importance of context in documentary photography.

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For the first 240 years of U.S. history, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation by naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, equality. The Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson etched onto the Declaration of Independence were given voice by Presidents from George Washington to @barackobama. @realdonaldtrump doesn’t talk like that. In the 18 months since his Inauguration, #Trump has mentioned “democracy” fewer than 100 times, “equality” only 12 times and “human rights” just 10 times. The tallies, drawn from a searchable online agglomeration of 5 million of Trump’s words, contrast with his predecessors’: at the same point in his first term, #RonaldReagan had mentioned equality three times as often in recorded remarks, which included 48 references to human rights, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Trump embraces a different set of values. He speaks often of #patriotism, albeit in the narrow sense of military duty, or as the kind of loyalty test he’s made to #NFL players. He also esteems religious liberty and economic vitality. But America’s 45th President is “not doing what rhetoricians call that ‘transcendent move,'” says Mary E. Stuckey, a communications professor at Penn State University and author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity. Instead, with each passing month he is testing anew just how far from our founding humanism his “America first” policies can take us. And over the past two months on our southern border, we have seen the result. Read this week's full cover story on TIME Photo-Illustration. Girl: @jbmoorephoto—@gettyimages; Trump: Thierry Charlier—@afpphoto/@gettyimages, @olivierdouliery—Pool/@gettyimages; animation by @brobeldesign

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In giving interviews, John Moore, the photographer who took the image, only fueled the fire by stating he “knew” what was “coming next” for the girl and her family. Speaking to NPR, he said “These people really had no idea about this news. And it was hard to take these pictures, knowing what was coming next.” Naturally, news outlets have latched on to his words, only leading to heightened tensions from the public. The real kicker comes from Border Patrol agent Carlos Ruiz, who photographer Moore was riding with that night. Ruiz has since admitted the toddler was crying only briefly, during the “two minutes” it took to search the girl’s mother. By his own admission, he concluded “[the media] are using it to symbolize a policy and that was not the case in this picture.”

Regardless of one’s personal or political feelings in regards to the Trump administration and its border policies, it’s apparent that in this case, things have escalated out of control. The internet has run wild with outrage, circulating the image at a rapid pace before any real context had been provided. The media ran with it, too, in what has been a stark reminder of how easily reputations can be damaged. Although clearly a photo composite, TIME’s depiction of Trump towering over the crying child has only caused heightened tensions towards him. It only reinforces that photography can be used to shape the way in which world events are depicted to the rest of the globe.

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Leigh Miller's picture

Sheesh...politics, region, etc doesn't mix with our thing. Don't you guys have tutorials, industry news, yada yada to report on??

Simon Patterson's picture

Don't be silly. Photojournalism is, after all, an important genre of photography.

michael buehrle's picture

only if it's true and not made up.

Simon Patterson's picture

Unfortunately, a lot of what passes as photojournalism is not actually photojournalism, for that very reason. Here we have a classic case.

16mm Camera's picture

This is the age we live in now. Truth or context doesn’t matter. It’s who can get the most rise for political gain.

I hate what was happening to those kids l politics aside, just glad measures were taken to rectify it.

There are some things (human rights) that shouldn’t be political imho.

Scott Hays's picture

Not to many examples I can think of (a very few) where especially photojournalism is not made up in order to sell an idea or for a publication to get a point across.

every time any of us depress that shutter button, we are making up our own story. We can block out the pleasant things in an image if we only want to capture the bad... we can block out the bad if we only want to show the good.

Truth in photography has never existed. Everyone uses images for their own purpose no matter who it is.

Leigh Miller's picture

Look, I agree with you. The same can be said of race, color, religion, etc. Yet you missed my point...FS has so much more to offer besides those issues, why cloud the site with this sort of stuff. There are plenty of other forums to battle out that mess. I can name ten things that are more valuable to this space than this stuff...and if you are honest, so can you.

Scott Hays's picture

You said it a lot better than what my mind was thinking. We get bombarded by politics everywhere we turn today. I really don't want to come here to find a photographer is "surprised" that media in any form uses items that will advance their narrative.

Pretty disappointed in this one.

Simon Patterson's picture

The easily most well publicised recent news photo turns out to be a lie, and you think a photography website shouldn't talk about it because it relates to an issue of politics, colour, race or religion?

There would be no photos to discuss if we add your suggested list of taboo topics to those who don't agree that we should show anything risque, those who don't want the work of male photographers shown, those who don't want heterosexual couples shown, those who disagree that any hint of violence or instruments of violence to be shown, those who don't want beautiful nature locations revealed, those who disagree that retouching of models should be done, and all the other taboos people desire to enforce.

Leigh Miller's picture

There are other sites completely geared towards "news" of that type. Aren't we here to discover, learn and share?

At least that's what FS used to...really circling towards the drain when people start dragging in dirt from outside.

Alex Cooke's picture

Hmmm, yesterday alone, we posted the following:

1. An inspirational post about following your dreams as a photographer
2. A review of Sigma's new Sony lenses
3. A tutorial on long exposures
4. A deal on a battery kit
5. A contest where you can win a free hard drive and get your work looked at by us
6. Tips for editing vertical video
7. A story about a photographer being mistakenly banned from Facebook
8. How to create an action for whitening teeth
9. Funny photography accounts to follow
10. The article you're so upset about
11. A list of talented landscape photographers we think people should follow

Putting aside the idea that we shouldn't talk about photojournalism, which I adamantly disagree with, I'd hardly say we're no longer posting content that helps people learn photography and discover other photographers.

Leigh Miller's picture

Mmmm hmmm...and did anyone complain about those?

Did they start unnecessary fights between extremists etc?

Probably not..know why Alex?

Because FS was about those things from day one. That's why people came here ;-)

Simon Patterson's picture

Leigh, there will be someone who finds each one of those articles objectionable for one reason or another. Not everyone takes the time to whinge about it to the world.

The content of this article was very accurately summed up in its title. It begs the question - why did you even open the article if you strongly object to reading about a political photo on Fstoppers? As Alex so clearly demonstrated, Fstoppers has provided a huge variety of other articles on the same day that you could have read instead.

Leigh Miller's picture

I don't think you understand but thank you for having the patience and respect to try. We need more honest but civil discourse in the world.

Alex posts social justice junk all the time. He's why I left this site after a long time. Came back to see if it's the same, hasn't changed. You think you can find some places online that haven't been infected with the rabid sense of hysteria. This is a photography site, period.

Alex Cooke's picture

Sorry you don't like my work. For the record, though, out of almost 1,400 articles I've written, about 15 have been in that realm. I'd hardly call a one percent rate "all the time." Also, I didn't write this article.

I know you didn't write it, but I certainly figured you let out a lil screech on this one. Intersectionality right? :p

Any amount of BS is too much already. The asinine drowns any quality content you may create otherwise. Do yourself a favor and just stick to actual photography content - maybe you can move forward in your life instead of getting hung up, spinning mental cycles on fairy tales. I say that sincerely. The biggest oppressors for a lot of these people, are themselves

Alex Cooke's picture

Look, I understand that you and other people might not agree with what I have to say, just as I might not agree with what you have to say. But I hope you understand that I put a lot of thought and effort into those articles and they're not just something I wrote in 20 minutes and tossed out there to stir the pot and piss people off because I have a rabid sense of hysteria, but rather because I'm trying to have legitimate, deep discussions about what photography represents and how it can influence a society. It actually upsets me a lot when comment sections turn into a mess of everyone dismissing everyone instead of respectful and rational, evidence-based discussion. That sort of thing help no one.

Rob Davis's picture

This image itself was not true, but no one is disputing that it is symbolic of the truth. The state of Michigan is reporting that infants as young as 3 months old are arriving in their detention centers.

David Penner's picture

CNN had a border patrol agent on and they asked him about situations like that. He said that they had a father and kid separated because the father had a warrant out for his arrest. He had raped someone. Its easy to say that kids shouldnt be separated from their parents but what if the parent has a record? Should they get a free pass because they are now with their kid? What if that isnt actually a family member? Also why are they crossing the border illegally? They arent detaining families if they cross through an actual border crossing.

Rob Davis's picture

Oh please with your what if's. As IF that is the typical situation. It's not. Most of these people are fleeing that kind of violence. Both Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller have said on the record this was/is the policy because it's supposed to be a deterrent, not because it's necessary.

The problem is it's not a deterrent because of inhuman as it is to take children fleeing violence away from their parents, what they were leaving behind was much worse. Kids being forced into gangs, young girls forced into sex slavery to serve the gangs. No hope.

What Obama did doesn't matter anymore. He hasn't been the president for well over a year. Are we supposed to ignore how bad this is because we didn't catch it under Obama's watch? These are stupid objections in an attempt to avoid dealing with reality.

David Penner's picture

Not looked like a rapist. Was a rapist. Are you saying that if you cross the border illegally but have a record you should be free to go if you have a child with you? You don't really seem to care about the safety of your neighbour do you? What about legal citizens? If a rich white guy has a kid and rapes someone should he be let off?

Rob Davis's picture

This Straw Man crap doesn't work on me. Find another sucker.

Rob Davis's picture

Wrong frog man. I'm saying it's still representative of the truth and the truth is what actually matters, not Time magazine being asleep at the wheel.

Scott Hays's picture

Why is it that no one in the government can ever produce the numbers where the people being detained, etc... are rapist, drug pushers, etc...? I'm not saying they don't exist, but I would really like to see accurate numbers, not hear it from someones mouth.

Rob Davis's picture

Touching story. Still, I am not bound in my actions as a citizen by the actions of the Obama administration. I did not know about this process then. Maybe the media is to blame. Maybe they didn't know either. It's not the kind of thing most people would brag about, except a guy like Trump. He decided to send his staff out to advertise this policy. Obama didn't. Now that I know, I don't like it. If I had known about Obama doing this, I would not have liked it. Just like I did not like his drone program.

"What Obama did doesn't matter anymore."
Everything every president has ever done will always matter. That is a very dangerous and ignorant comment. If what you are saying is true, everything the Bush Jr. and Sr. did doesn't matter? Bill Clinton's affair doesn't matter? The things Richard Nixon did don't matter? What they have done is in the history books. It will ALWAYS matter.

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