Update July 28, 2020: Adding another public remark by Trump at signing of ceremony for Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation after paragraph seven.
Posts circulating on social media make the claim that U.S. President Donald Trump said that his government is fighting “an ancient sex trafficking ring.” The posts make the further claim that the media chose not to cover his remarks, noting that “not a single reporter” asked for more information. There is, however, no evidence that Trump ever said this.
Examples of the claim are visible here , here , and here .
The claim likely alludes to a set of conspiracy theories by QAnon, a fringe group popular among some Trump supporters that claims “deep-state” traitors are plotting against the President ( here ). QAnon’s theories often allude to a “secret campaign” being waged by Trump against “a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals,” according to Time ( here ).
The posts come after Twitter permanently suspended accounts that violate its policies while tweeting about QAnon ( here ).
In 2019, while speaking with law enforcement officials in the White House about the need for funding for his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump talked about increased rates of human trafficking. During the meeting on February 11, 2019, Trump said, “people think of that as an ancient art. There are more human smugglers right now, traffickers they call them, than at any time in the history of our world because of the internet unfortunately.” ( here, see 3:52 mark ).
A White House transcript of the event shows only one reporter asked a question about a potential government shutdown ( here ), though C-SPAN video appears to show the session ending without any questions at all ( here).
In the same speech, Trump spoke about the alleged offenses committed by migrants, alluding to data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security. These are the most similar remarks to those in the social posts that Reuters could find. However, at no point did Trump refer to an “ancient sex trafficking ring”.
Trump made similar remarks about a month earlier in a signing ceremony for Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation (here). "You would think [human trafficking] was an ancient form of criminality. It's not. It's a very modern-day form," Trump said. He then fielded questions from the press on the government shutdown and on declaring a national emergency.
On January 31, 2020 Trump delivered remarks at the White House Summit on Human Trafficking on the 20th Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act ( here ).
In a few instances Trump alluded specifically to sex trafficking and said that his administration shut down the leading site for online sex trafficking, enacted bills to fight sex trafficking, authorized $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking, and worked internationally to address child sexual abuse ( here ).
There were no questions at the conclusion of this address. The event was covered widely by national media outlets ( here , here ).
Bloomberg reported that some victim-advocacy groups “criticized the president’s record on the issue and declined to attend a White House ceremony.” ( here )
On July 21, 2020 Trump said that he wished alleged sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell well, noting that he had met her multiple times in the past, but he had little else to say on the case involving the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Trump, speaking at his first coronavirus briefing in weeks, was asked if he thought Maxwell would “turn in powerful men” following her arrest, given that she was the longtime associate of Epstein and was his alleged co-conspirator.
“I just wish her well, frankly,” Trump said. “I’ve met her numerous times over the years — especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach — but I wish her well, whatever it is.”
Maxwell, 58, has denied charges that she lured underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse and has pleaded not guilty. A U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan denied bail at a hearing in July, saying the wealthy socialite posed a flight risk ( here ).
No remarks related to “an ancient sex trafficking ring” appear on Trump’s Twitter timeline, nor do results from searches for posts with similar wording. No news outlets reported that Trump tweeted this.
According to Politwoops, a project by ProPublica that archives deleted tweets from politicians, there are no deleted tweets mentioning “an ancient sex trafficking ring” from Trump’s page ( here ).
False. There is no evidence that Trump said the government was fighting “an ancient sex trafficking ring.”
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .
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