White House defends Trump's caravan 'rapes' remark

WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday where President Donald Trump likely got the information that women in the immigrant caravan in Mexico "are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before." But the source they pointed to doesn't back up the president's Thursday statement.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the president was likely referring to a news report describing conditions that migrants — mostly from Honduras — have endured to flee their hometowns and journey north toward Mexico's border with the United States.

"There was a story...I believe it was the LA Times, I don't have it here in front of me, that documented some of that," she told reporters at the White House briefing.

Central American migrants traveling in 'caravan'

The report referred to similar caravans organized around Easter in past years, and noted that "robberies, rapes and assaults — perpetrated by smugglers, cartel members and Mexican immigration agents — are common. In one incident in 2010, 72 kidnapped migrants were killed by a cartel in northern Mexico."

The report said nothing about rapes taking place in record numbers. In fact, it cited one woman who praised the men in the caravan for protecting her, noting it "has begun to feel a little like a family."

Trump made his comments during a roundtable in White Sulphur Springs, W.V., billed as a tax policy discussion.

He has spent much of the week focused on tougher security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Yesterday, it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before," the president said. "They don't want to mention that, so we have to change our laws."

"Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower...Everybody said, 'Oh, he was so tough.' I used the word 'rape,'" he added.

Trump began the week warning of dangerous "caravans" of immigrants headed for the U.S. border with Mexico. On Tuesday, he tweeted about "the big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our 'Weak Laws' Border."