How evil is MS-13? Last year, two gang members in Texas reportedly murdered a teenage girl as an offering to Satan. According to prosecutors, the gang leader (known as "Diabolico") told the young girl that "the Beast" wanted "a soul" before having his partner shoot her in the head and dump her body on a street corner. As charges were read against the two, the Houston Chronicle reported, they "laughed, smiled and waved for the media cameras." MS-13 gang members, police have said, also stabbed a Maryland man more than 100 times before decapitating him and cutting out his heart ... lured a 34-year-old man to his already dug grave ... and stoned an 18-year-old boy to death and dumped his body under a bridge.
MS-13 is a demonic death cult. And President Trump has Nancy Pelosi defending its members' humanity.
When Trump declared at a White House roundtable "You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals," he was clearly referring to MS-13. But the media and Democrats took the president's quote out of context and declared that he had referred to all illegal immigrants as animals. The Associated Press tweeted that "Trump referred to those crossing US border illegally as 'animals.'" The New York Times tweeted, "Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting, calling those trying to breach the country's borders 'animals.'" Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared, "When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren't 'animals,' and these people aren't either."
By the next morning, news organizations were walking back their stories. The Associated Press announced it had "deleted a tweet from late Wednesday on Trump's 'animals' comment about immigrants because it wasn't made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members."
But not Pelosi, the House minority leader. Even after it was clear that Trump was referring to gang members, the California Democrat still claimed the president had called "undocumented immigrants" animals, declaring at a news conference that his remarks were "inhumane" and that "we're all God's children ... Does he not believe in the spark of divinity, the dignity and worth of every person?"
Of course, we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That is true of MS-13 members. It was also true of Osama bin Laden, Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler. But can you imagine Pelosi standing up in outrage to defend their humanity? Referring to evil men as "animals" is a common colloquial expression. The Oxford Dictionary's definition of the word "animal" includes "a person without human attributes or civilizing influences, especially someone who is very cruel, violent, or repulsive." It offers, as an example of its proper use: "those men have to be animals -- what they did to that boy was savage." Which is exactly how Trump used the word.
To this day, Pelosi has neither retracted her remarks nor admitted she was wrong. So now Trump is giving as good as he got.
"I noticed recently where Democrats, Nancy Pelosi as an example, are trying to defend MS-13 gang members," Trump declared at a Long Island event last week. "I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke. They said, 'they are people.' They are not people. These are animals." At a rally in Nashville this week, he announced to a cheering crowd that Pelosi "loves MS-13," pointing out that "I said they're animals, and she said 'how dare you say that?'" He then asked the crowd, "What was the name?" The crowd responded, "animals!" Expect to hear that refrain at many Trump rallies in the months ahead.
Through their dishonesty, Democrats such as Pelosi have handed the president a winning issue. A Harvard/Harris poll finds that 56 percent of Americans agree with Trump that it is fair to call MS-13 "animals" (including 47 percent of Hispanics, and 41 percent of Democrats). Millions of Americans can't understand why Democrats seem more hostile toward Trump than a vicious gang that carries out savage killings.
Is Trump wrong to say Pelosi "loves MS-13"? Sure. But with her deceitful attack, she gave him the pretext to make that claim. There is a lesson here for Democrats: Trump says enough outrageous things that Democrats shouldn't have to make them up. When the president has you defending the "dignity and worth" of MS-13 members, you're doing something wrong.
Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group