Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean Tuesday sought to quell a potential firestorm over the recent “fake news” that a number of Barbadians had been detained in United States president Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.
In what appeared to be a subtle attempt to shift responsibility for the story on to the media, McClean Tuesday said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who last week said the Barbadians had been arrested, had not volunteered “an announcement to the world”.
Seemingly believing that the information passed on to him by McClean was accurate, Stuart told reporters on the sidelines of the 28th Caribbean Community Intercessional Summit in Guyana last Thursday that during the meeting of the leaders “the Foreign Minister [McClean] showed me a text message or an email message she had just received saying that 19 Barbadians had been identified in this whole process”.
The Prime Minister also said Government would investigate the report, even as he expressed surprise that Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals were being rounded up by the American authorities in keeping with Trump’s January 27 order intended to keep terrorists out of the US.
“We did not see ourselves as threatened,” Stuart said at the time.
Twenty-four hours later the Prime Minister backed down from his previous statement, stating through the Barbados Government Information Service that “no Barbadians are being detained under the new immigration policy being implemented by the United States”.
Stuart explained that the Barbados’ Consulate General in New York had investigated the report and found it to be untrue.
“They [Consulate General] said they did a thorough investigation and if Barbadians were detained or going to be deported, the [US] authorities would consult or contact the Consulate. They said they had received no such contact, there was no consultation with them, and all of their investigations failed to turn up any information that would suggest that Barbadians in New York or any other part of the United States were in trouble as a result of any rounding up of people to get them out of the country,” he said.
His retraction led to criticism in some quarters that the Prime Minister ought to have verified the information before making his initial comment.
However, McClean took to the airwaves Tuesday to defend Stuart, insisting the Prime Minister had not offered the information to the media, as she explained her actions after receiving the initial correspondence.
“I contacted the Consul General in New York, copied an email to her, to Mr John Blackman who is our deputy in New York and I said to them, ‘I have received this from a Barbadian in New York, please verify’. I was sitting next to the Prime Minister and it came and I showed him. He did not go and make an announcement to the world,” she said on Down to Brass Tacks on Starcom Radio.
McClean did not say why she felt it necessary to share this unverified information with the Prime Minister and whether or not she had advised him that there was a possibility it could be fake news.
But she was adamant that Stuart was “asked about something, which he said he saw but we were investigating”. “Is something wrong with that?” she queried.