Think Progress, via its Wonk Room blog, thought it had the story of the year.
Not just the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS.
No, it was so much better, the killing of bin Laden by a Navy SEAL team which included "Rubén Mejía," the American-born child of illegal Mexican immigrants.
The original report was from a newspaper in Mexico, and was dutifully reported by Think Progress, which used the story to argue in support of the DREAM Act, Navy SEALs Squadron That Killed Bin Laden Included Rubén Mejía, The Son Of Mexican Immigrants (emphasis mine):
For a long time, Latinos were underrepresented in the armed forces. Yet, this started to change dramatically as the Army launched “a vast recruiting campaign targeting Latino youth, placing ads in Spanish-language media, including magazines, radio, and television.” In fact, several military experts have come out in support of the DREAM Act which would legalize undocumented youth who go to college or serve in the military precisely because it would significantly increase the pool of qualified recruits in the Latino population — which comprises the majority of undocumented immigrants and is more likely to enlist and serve in the military than any other group....
Meanwhile, many also claim that Latinos are being left out of the military’s highest ranks. “In the last 75 years, there have been only three (Latino) officers on active duty with three stars and just one with four. What’s the problem? We’re as capable, competent and educated as any other segment of society,” retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez stated last year. If the hundreds of Latinos who have died serving our country abroad aren’t enough to change that, hopefully Rubén Mejía’s brave and historic actions are.Think Progress was responsible for sending the story viral with this tweet:
Hundreds of tweets linking to Think Progress, including by Markos Moulistas of DailyKos and Perez Hilton, sent the story soaring.
Paul Reyes of USA Today, writing in HuffPo, beamed with pride:
As an American, I'm relieved that the hunt for Bin Laden is over. As a New Yorker, I finally feel some sense of closure, nearly ten years after September 11. And as a Latino, I am proud that Ruben Mejia has set a heroic example of the innumerable contribution of immigrants to the United States.It was the perfect story with which to beat supporters of immigration enforcement over the head. The most heroic of actions by a so-called "anchor baby."
But the story turned out to be false, which Think Progress noted after several updates.
There was much embarrassment around the internet from people who ran with the story because Think Progress ran with it.
But what if the story were true? Would it have proven what Think Progress wants, which is passage of the DREAM Act?
Considering that the DREAM Act is directed at persons not born in the U.S., it's apples and oranges. The fictitious Navy SEAL Ruben Mejia would not be affected.
And even as to children who were brought here illegally, service in the military as a pathway to citizenship is non-controversial; the controversy over the DREAM Act was that it was so broad in its application that it amounted to a wide-ranging amnesty.
So in many ways, the story even if true was a non-story. But it provided Think Progress with an irresistible play of the race card. Too irresistible to fact check before running with it.
I think I'm going to start charging for popcorn.
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