Fake news gets Barbados PM

Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Photo by George Alleyne

Amidst warnings of fake news spun across social media, it is reasonable to expect that heads of state would not be caught in this fraud — but apparently not so for Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Emerging from a meeting of the CARICOM intersessional Summit in Guyana last week, the Barbados leader confidently stated in response to a question on the Donald Trump administration’s planned deportation of certain non-nationals, “the Foreign Minister [Maxine McLean] showed me a text message, or an email message, she had just received saying that 19 Barbadians had been identified in the whole process.”

He went on to say in that February 16 response, “we did not see ourselves as threatened”.

Two days following Stuart’s faux pas, the Barbados government published a walk back through its mouth piece, Government Information Services.

“No Barbadians are being detained under the new immigration policy being implemented by the United States (US),” GIS stated, and continued, “Prime Minister Freundel Stuart gave this assurance following media reports that 19 Barbadian nationals had been held as part of a crackdown on immigration authorities in the US.

According to the GIS statement, following Stuart’s statement at the CARICOM meeting, government officials went on to do what should have been done before the prime minister decided to answer media questions on the matter.

“Mr. Stuart explained that investigations with Barbados’ Consulate-General in New York revealed that the claim was untrue.”

GIS quoted Stuart saying, “The foreign minister received information that 19 Barbadians had been detained. The information did not come from the consulate itself, it came from a Barbadian living in New York, so we asked the consulate there to investigate the matter and we received a reply today that the news was fake.”

The prime minister further said in that GIS, statement, “they 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.”

The matter might have died there with the Barbados government quietly wiping the egg off its face, if Foreign Minister, Maxine McLean, had not on Wednesday taken to a the airwaves through local radio talk show programme to denounce the whole affair as one in which the media ran with incorrect information.

“He did not go and make an announcement to the world,” McLean said in defence of her prime minister.

McLean said Stuart, “was asked about something, which he said he saw but we were investigating.”

“Is something wrong with that,” she asked.

Barbados TODAY, the online publication that reported Stuart’s statements last week, said, in its Wednesday night edition that McLean’s radio comments, “appeared to be a subtle attempt to shift responsibility for the story on the media.”

Barbados Foreign Minister Maxine McLean.
Photo by George Alleyne

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