Katie Britt Misrepresented Her SOTU Sex-Trafficking Story

Senator Katie Britt delivering her State of the Union response.

Alabama senator Katie Britt’s official GOP response to Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday night has been widely criticized, primarily for how wholly bizarre it was, but also for the lurid stories Britt included in an attempt to illustrate why he has been a terrible nation-destroying president. A key anecdote Britt featured to that end was about a young woman she met during a January 2023 trip to the U.S. southern border who had been a victim of rape and sex trafficking as a teenager. She used the story as example of Biden’s failed border policies, clearly suggesting the woman had suffered these crimes inside the U.S. and as a direct result of the president’s failure to secure the southern border — but the crimes she referenced happened decades ago in Mexico.

Here is the story she told and how she told it, from the transcript of the speech released by Britt’s office:

[R]ight now, the American dream has turned into a nightmare for so many families. The true unvarnished state of our union begins and ends with this. Our families are hurting. Our country can do better.

And you don’t have to look any further than the crisis at our southern border to see it. President Biden inherited the most secure border of all-time. But minutes after taking office, he suspended all deportations, halted construction of the border wall, and announced a plan to give amnesty to millions. 

We know that President Biden didn’t just create this border crisis. He invited it with 94 executive actions in his first 100 days.

When I first took office, I did something different. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas, where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped. 

The cartels put her on a mattress in a shoe-box of a room, and they sent men through that door, over and over again, for hours and hours on-end.

We wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country. This is the United States of America, and it’s past time we start acting like it.

President Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace. It’s despicable. And it’s almost entirely preventable.

On Friday, former Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz highlighted several details which called Britt’s framing of the woman’s story into question. In both a Bluesky thread and a TikTok video, the independent journalist said that he tried to confirm the details Britt shared, noting that during her trip to the border in January 2023, Britt and two other GOP senators, Marsha Blackburn and Cindy Hyde-Smith, held a roundtable press conference with a Mexican congresswoman, a Fox News contributor, and a Mexican sex-trafficking survivor named Karla Jacinto Romero.

In 2004, Romero was forced into sex slavery in Mexico when she was 12 years old, and after she escaped her pimp four years later, bravely dedicated her life to activism against slavery and sex trafficking. Since then, she has repeatedly recounted the horrific details of her experience, including in testimony before Congress in 2015, and again with Britt, Blackburn, and Hyde-Smith in 2023.

As Katz pointed out, Britt clearly cited the sex trafficking victim’s experience as a consequence of President Biden’s border policies, but if in fact the story she referred to was Romero’s, those crimes happened in Mexico at a time when George W. Bush was president. In addition Britt framed the story as having happened amid the current border crisis, in the border region, right before she began citing alleged migrant-perpetrated violence inside the U.S.

Both Politico Playbook and columnist Kyle Whitmire quickly reached out to Britt’s office for comment regarding Katz’s investigation, and Britt spokesperson Sean Ross sent a statement in reply insisting that “the story Senator Britt told was 100 percent correct. There are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now.” The statement further claims that the Biden administration’s policies “have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level or migrants making the dangerous journey to our border. Along that journey, children, women, and men are being subjected to gut-wrenching, heartbreaking horrors in our own backyard.” Britt’s office later confirmed to the Associated Press that the story the senator referenced was Romero’s.

In a video about the January 2023 border visit produced by Senator Blackburn’s office, Britt referenced Romero’s account while footage of her and Romero appeared. In those remarks, Britt argued that the U.S. needed to do more to prevent such crime:

If we, as leaders of the greatest nation in the world, are not fighting to protect the most vulnerable, we are not doing our job.

That’s not the argument Britt made in her State of the Union response on Thursday. Britt made up a totally false context in her speech in order to suggest Biden was to blame for something that happened two decades ago.

This post has been updated to include the confirmation that Britt used Romero’s story in her speech.

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