Politico exposed for appearing to ban the word ‘crisis’ to describe the southern border

President Joe Biden’s administration has gone to great lengths to avoid using the term “crisis” as a descriptor for the ongoing surge of migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, seeking entry at the southern border.

Now a major media outlet has embarked on a similarly self-censorious path, as Politico has reportedly banned its writers and editors from using the word “crisis” in its reporting on the situation at the border, according to the Washington Examiner.

The ban

The Examiner obtained an internal memo sent to Politico staffers from deputy production director Maya Parthasarathy regarding how the outlet would report on what was occurring at the southern border.

“Avoid referring to the present situation as a crisis, although we may quote others using that language while providing context,” the memo reportedly stated. “While the sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors is a problem for border officials, a political challenge for the Biden administration and a dire situation for many migrants who make the journey, it does not fit the dictionary definition of a crisis.”

“If using the word ‘crisis,’ we need to ask of what and to whom,” the director added.

Defining “crisis”

The claim that the current situation at the border doesn’t fit the “dictionary definition of a crisis” is rather disputable, however, as noted by the Examiner.

According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of the word “crisis” is: “a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.” If that doesn’t describe what is currently occurring at the southern border quite aptly, it is unclear what else would.

In seeking confirmation of the apparent ban on use of the word “crisis,” a spokesperson for Politico told the Examiner, “This wasn’t a company-wide memo — it was an email to relevant employees sharing AP style guidance — the industry standard — which you can find here.”

Indeed, the Associated Press — which does set style and usage standards for the media industry — published a blog post on March 26 that urged the media to use “accurate and neutral language” when reporting on the border situation and to refrain from using the term “crisis” to describe what was occurring.

The Examiner noted that while the Politico memo didn’t “track the (AP’s) words verbatim,” and Politico had referred to other style and usage guides as well, the phrasing used in the memo nonetheless bore plenty of similarities to the AP’s post.

Biden just called it a “crisis”

Interestingly enough, the Examiner pointed out that Biden himself slipped up and referred to the border situation as a “crisis” when answering questions from reporters about increasing the annual cap on refugees. Biden replied that the agency responsible for dealing with refugees “was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people.”

That slip-up from Biden was walked back by White House press secretary Jen Psaki during Monday’s press briefing, though, when she said, “The president does not feel that children coming to our border, seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships, and other … dire circumstances is a crisis,” but rather that the “crisis” he referred to was within Central America itself, and not at the southern border.

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