The photographer who snapped the photos of Border Patrol agents on horseback while trying to apprehend Haitians illegally crossing into the U.S. has spoken out about how the media inappropriately described what he had captured.
The photographer, Paul Ratje, told local outlet KTSM that he has never seen anyone from Border Patrol whipping illegal immigrants, contrary to what media outlets breathlessly and baselessly reported earlier this week. Ratje told the outlet that he was based in Las Cruces, New Mexico but had traveled to Del Rio, Texas on Friday. He said he took the photos from the Mexican side of the border.
“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” Ratje told the outlet.
“I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” Ratje added. “He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”
While journalists claimed the photos showed Border Patrol agents were “whipping” migrants, the photos actually show split reins, not whips. Split reins are used to direct the horse and hang loosely down the horse’s shoulders. When a horse makes a sudden movement, those strips of leather will naturally flow outward, which is what was depicted in the images. In no picture was a Border Patrol agent holding a whip or even holding the reins in a whip-like fashion.
In one of the videos, a Border Patrol agent can be seen spinning the rein, but no contact was made with the immigrant approaching the horse. A Border Patrol agent told Townhall reporter Julio Rosas that “Agents use their reins for a lot of reasons.”
“Primarily it’s used to steer the horse, but agents will also spin them sometimes to deter people from getting too close to the horse…We are not aware of anyone being struck with the reins,” he added.
Even though the story could have been debunked easily, members of the Biden administration accepted the false claims outright, without any additional questions. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas initially defended the Border Patrol agents, but quickly changed his tune as the media frenzy continued into Tuesday. He called for an investigation and said the images and videos “horrified” him.
“I was horrified by what I saw,” Mayorkas said on CNN’s “New Day” when asked about the images. The network had bought into the false claim that agents were whipping illegal immigrants. “I’m going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said the photos were “horrific” and announced Thursday that Border Patrol agents would no longer ride horses in Del Rio, even though horses are an effective crowd control tactic. Numerous police departments in major cities use horseback patrol units to keep crowds under control.
Nevertheless, the agents who were photographed have been reassigned to desk duty while an investigation takes place.