Questions Arise About Katie Britt’s State of the Union Response

In her rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union speech Thursday night, Senator Katie Britt, Republican of Alabama, told a story about a Mexican woman who was a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 12, laying blame at the feet of the current administration.

“President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace,” she said.

The story, while wrenching, was highly misleading.

Although Ms. Britt did not name the victim in her speech, she has previously shared the story of a woman who appears to be the same individual based on congressional testimony, news releases and news reports.

That woman, Karla Jacinto Romero, is a Mexican citizen who does not live in the United States and who has spoken frequently about her experiences of being forced into sexual slavery for four years. In 2023, Ms. Jacinto participated in an event near the Texas border with Mexico that was also attended by three senators, including Ms. Britt. In a video released shortly after that trip, Ms. Britt discussed Ms. Jacinto’s experiences.

In her speech Thursday, Ms. Britt talked about the harrowing story as part of a critique of President Biden’s border policies, saying that “we wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country.” She added that “this is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it.”

In fact, as first reported by the independent journalist Jonathan Katz on TikTok on Friday, Ms. Jacinto’s experiences did not happen in the United States. She has testified that she was kidnapped in Mexico City and that her shocking experience of being raped thousands of times took place entirely in Mexico. Moreover, she has said the kidnapping occurred in 2002 and she was rescued in 2006. Ms. Jacinto continues to live in Mexico and does not appear to have ever lived in the United States or to have sought asylum here.

In other words: None of this happened during President Biden’s administration, nor does it appear to have anything to do with his policies regarding the U.S. border with Mexico. But that didn’t stop the first-term senator from strongly implying that the president could have somehow prevented it from happening, using rhetoric that seemed calibrated to inflame public fears about immigration.

“We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis,” she said. “He invited it.”

Ms. Jacinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Ms. Britt, Sean Ross, stood behind her speech.

“The story Senator Britt told was 100 percent correct,” he said in a statement. “And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now. The Biden administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the president falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border.”

He did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about what direct responsibility Mr. Biden had for what Ms. Jacinto experienced or what an anecdote about sex trafficking entirely within another country has to do with U.S. border policies.

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