President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Has Trump peddled bogus claims about the border because of a movie?

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/28/19, 9:17 PM ET

Democrats aim for insights on national security in new hearings

Rachel Maddow runs through some of the many open questions about the Donald Trump administration and national security, from Trump’s cinematic justifications for a border crisis to assessments of worldwide threats.
Rachel Maddow runs through some of the many open questions about the Donald Trump administration and national security, from Trump’s cinematic justifications for a border crisis to assessments of worldwide threats.
When making his case for a giant border wall, Donald Trump has turned to a variety of strange talking points. At a White House event earlier this month, for example, the president marveled at the quality of the vehicles used by human traffickers

“[T]hey have unbelievable vehicles. They make a lot of money. They have the best vehicles you can buy. They have stronger, bigger and faster vehicles than our police have and than ICE has, and the Border Patrol have.”

About a week later, Trump published a tweet intended to raise public anxieties about activities at the U.S./Mexico border.

“Border rancher: ‘We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.’ Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”

Last week, the Republican turned to one of his go-to stories, which he’s peddled many times.

“Human traffickers – the victims are women and children. Maybe to a lesser extent, believe or not, children. Women are tied up. They’re bound. Duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases, they can’t even breathe. They’re put in the backs of cars or vans or trucks.”

It’s tempting to dismiss all of this as just another round of nonsense from a president who too often has no idea what he’s saying, but in this case, these three Trump talking points have two things in common.

First, they’re demonstrably false. There’s nothing especially amazing about smugglers’ vehicles; there’s no evidence at all of prayer rugs being found in the dirt by the border (in fact, the whole idea is kind of silly); and experts have marveled at how bizarre Trump’s claims are about women tied up with tape.

Second, each of these appeared in a recent fictional movie.

No, seriously. As Rachel noted on the show last night, there’s a movie called Sicario:
Day of the Soldado, which was released last summer, and which included a woman being tied up with tape, smugglers driving vast vehicles, and officials finding prayer rugs in the dirt near the border.

Again, just so we’re all clear, the movie is real, but the story is fictional. The script was written by screenwriters, not documentarians. The plot of the film is made up, as are the characters and developments that unfolded on screen.

As Rachel added, “In a normal administration, it would be insane to suggest” the president of the United States saw stuff in a movie and maybe thought it reflected reality. And who knows, maybe it’s just a coincidence.

But let’s not miss the forest for the trees: Donald Trump’s observations about the border are so at odds with reality that there are reasonable questions as to how in the world he even came up with such strange ideas.

I can’t say with any certainty whether the president took a fictional movie a little too seriously, but that’s not really the point. Rather, what matters is that we’re left to wonder how and why Trump comes up with these stories, which he peddles to the public, despite being wrong.