The Media Is Repeating Trump’s Lies About Birthright Citizenship

While an Axios reporter appears visibly thrilled with having goaded Trump into an explosive, anti-immigrant quote.

Chris Kleponis/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

On Tuesday, Axios released the first clip of its upcoming four-part HBO series, which featured President Donald Trump floating the possibility of ending birthright citizenship for babies of non-US citizens and undocumented immigrants, a constitutional right enshrined in the 14th Amendment. 

“Some legal scholars believe you can get rid of birthright citizenship without changing the Constitution,” reporter Jonathan Swan asserts to Trump in the interview. Trump then interrupts to finish Swan’s thoughts, “with an executive order.”

“Exactly!” he replies, appearing visibly thrilled with the prospect of having goaded Trump into an explosive, anti-immigrant quote. “Tell me more!” Swan encourages the president.

As the clip continues, Trump goes on to incorrectly complain that the United States was the only country in the world to offer birthright citizenship. In reality, at least 30 countries worldwide offer it. According to Trump, though, that right has unfairly provided benefits to people he apparently believes are undeserving of them. “It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous,” he says. “And it has to end.”

The interview continues, but Swan doesn’t counter the president’s blatant falsehood. It was then breathlessly repeated in headlines without qualification or mention that the proposal is likely unconstitutional. 












As many noted the dangers of failing to fact-check the president, Axios eventually added a note to the clip’s corresponding post. The Associated Press also deleted its tweet reiterating Trump’s remarks without context.

While Trump probably lacks the legal authority to carry out his supposed plans for an executive order, the mere raising of its possibility has likely already accomplished what the Trump administration has often sought to do with such issues, and that is to threaten his targets with fear-mongering rhetoric while at the same time fomenting his base. Trump has escalated those tactics in the final push ahead of the midterms, and his latest threat of an executive order fits right into the pattern.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend