The top editor at Time, Edward Felsenthal, on Sunday defended the magazine’s controversial cover about the situation at the US-Mexico border.
The cover included a now iconic image of a crying child set against a red background, with President Donald Trump looking down at her.
Some —- particularly pro-Trump news outlets —- have accused the magazine and the mainstream media of misusing the image of the little girl to tell a story about migrant children being separated from their parents and the US and Mexico border.
CNN reported Monday that the government said the girl in the photograph was never separated from her mother. The girl’s father confirmed to The New York Times on Friday the pair were never separated.
But Felsenthal stood by Time’s use of the image. He told CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” that the image “symbolized this moment in America.”
The photograph is of a Honduran toddler in tears, looking up as police detained her mother. It was widely shared by media outlets last week, including CNN, during a wave of backlash against the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.
It circulated as the separation of children from their parents at the border became a hot-button issue.
Time issued a correction to one online story that initially described the image as depicting family separation. (CNN quickly issued a correction on one article Thursday about the Time cover to correctly describe the image of the crying girl.)
Felsenthal defended the use of the image on Time’s cover last week.
“We chose the photo because this little girl became the face of this story on front pages and home pages and TV screens and Facebook feeds,” he said.
But a barrage of pro-Trump media outlets have pounced on Time and other publications, saying they misrepresented the girl.
The Daily Caller wrote: “The media’s narrative about family separation at the border has been completely demolished, as the truth behind a viral photo of a crying Honduran child tells a completely different story.”
Stelter, the host of “Reliable,” said the conservative outlets are “using this one issue to try to distract from what is a disgusting situation at the border.”
The US Department of Homeland security said earlier this month that about 2,000 children had been separated from their parents at the border between April 19 and May 31 of this year. The separations were caused largely by the Trump administration’s decision to charge every adult caught illegally crossing the border with a federal crime.
Stelter suggested to Felsenthal that perhaps the image of the Honduran girl “shouldn’t have been the face of this story if she wasn’t separated from her mom.”
Felsenthal replied: “None of us in the media who used the photo knew what had happened to the girl after this precise moment. And I actually think part of the power of the image is that unknown.”
Felsenthal earlier defended the cover in a statement issued Friday.
“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason … Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment,” he said.
—CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.