Rachel Maddow began to cry on air as she attempted to deliver a report from The Associated Press confirming that the Trump administration will be operating at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas for migrant babies and toddlers. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, earning harsh rebukes from city leaders. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited these shelters described scenes of migrant children in crisis, many of them crying out for their families.
Maddow could barely get through these details, however, before the tears began to flow. As she struggled to maintain composure, she decided to cut her program short.
“I think I’m going to have to hand this off, sorry,” the MSNBC host said.
Rachel Maddow chokes up and cries on air as she struggles to deliver news that migrant babies and toddlers have bee… https://t.co/8c5S4MbRy5— Justin Baragona (@Justin Baragona) 1529460401.0
Maddow's reaction quickly went viral, with many who viewed her segment describing similar feelings of shock and distress.
Some railed against the president, who has continued to stand by the "zero tolerance" policy announced by his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, last month, even though he has admitted that his administration's policy of separating families is a negotiating tool to get Democrats to cave to his demands (which include tougher border security as well as a wall erected along the nation’s southern border).
Watching Rachel @maddow not even be able to speak, but literally break down crying talking about Trump’s latest dev… https://t.co/cWFScQaohq— Jarrett Hill (@Jarrett Hill) 1529460396.0
The kids are crying The parents are crying Rachel Maddow is crying I'm crying The whole country is crying— Shawn in Arizona 🌵 (@Shawn in Arizona 🌵) 1529460632.0
Rachel Maddow is crying after reporting on "tender age" shelters where the BABIES are kept after being separated fr… https://t.co/nSwVmLmXo4— Ryan Knight 🏳️🌈🗽 (@Ryan Knight 🏳️🌈🗽) 1529465276.0
Maddow's reaction lies in stark contrast to comments made earlier in the evening by Corey Lewandowski, who served, for a time, as President Donald Trump's former campaign manager during the 2016 election cycle.
Lewandowski sparred with Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas, a fellow panelist on Fox News, after he dismissed reports of a girl with Down Syndrome being separated from her mother at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I read today about a 10-year old girl with Down Syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage––" Petkanas began before Lewandowski cut him off.
"Womp womp," Lewandowski said.
“Did you just say ‘womp, womp’ to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome separated from her mother?” Petkanas responded. “How dare you. How dare you.”
Lewandowski attempted to defend his remark, but could not get a word in edgewise against the incredulous Petkanas.
Reactions to this equally jarring moment of network television were also impassioned. One critic, writer and activist Nick Jack Pappas, went so far as to contact the Harvard Institute of Politics, of which Lewandowski is a fellow, for comment.
Hi @HarvardIOP, Just wanted to let you know that one of your fellows, Corey Lewandowski, just said, "Womp, Womp,"… https://t.co/Qz6LNXC260— Nick Jack Pap-pass the Gravy (@Nick Jack Pap-pass the Gravy) 1529457360.0
Jamil Smith, a senior writer for Rolling Stone, went even further.
You really have to be a special kind of motherfucker to mock a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome separated from h… https://t.co/MDvR2J300b— Jamil Smith (@Jamil Smith) 1529466725.0
Others were, quite simply, livid.
This is where we are right now. Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager. literally says "Womp Womp" when it i… https://t.co/82rjllr1Dh— Shaun King (@Shaun King) 1529460269.0
Lewandowski's response to child detentions comes on the heels of remarks made by other prominent Republican commentators who've been criticized for what their detractors say are callous and unfeeling responses to a humanitarian crisis.
Earlier this week, Ann Coulter, who has made headlines in recent months for criticizing the president's approach to immigration policy, called children crying at the border after being separated from parents “child actors."
"I would also say one other thing, these child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now — do not fall for it, Mr. President," Coulter said during an appearance on Fox News' The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton. "I get very nervous about the president getting his news from TV,” she added.
Ann Coulter on Fox News calls crying immigrant children "child actors" and looks directly into the camera to warn T… https://t.co/BY5kdn8rGW— Jon Levine (@Jon Levine) 1529334018.0
Coulter has refused to apologize for her statements. Instead, she's doubled down on her theory, saying that the children detained in government shelters are actors who “need to improve their scripts.”
“Yes, I think they need to improve their scripts, they’re saying ‘mommy and daddy,’ maybe you want to put it in Spanish next time,” she said in response to an audio clip obtained by ProPublica which reveals children sobbing for their parents. At one point, a Border Patrol agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.”
New: ProPublica has obtained audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can… https://t.co/lLynq6poIx— ProPublica (@ProPublica) 1529351595.0
Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, the host of The Ingraham Angle, also found herself in the crossfire of the migrant crisis after she described the child detention centers housing immigrant children as “essentially summer camps.”
“As more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents,” Ingraham said during her show last night. “And temporarily housed at what are, essentially, summer camps.”
To underscore her point, Ingraham cited a news report from The San Diego Union-Tribune that compared the camps to “boarding schools.”
Although Congressional Republicans have moved to bring an end to the crisis, they failed to agree on how to end the family separation policy outright. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Majority Leader has called for a legislative fix; his colleague, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, believes the president should use his executive authority to curb the policy altogether.
The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that around 2,000 children have been separated from their families during the six weeks since the policy went into effect.