White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday had a heated exchange with a Breitbart News reporter about precisely what kind of barrier President Donald Trump intends to build on the U.S.-Mexico border — his promised wall or a mere fence.
“Thank you for an opportunity to show you some things,” Spicer said during his daily briefing, and cued up a series of slides featuring different kinds of barriers, to laughter from those in the room. “You asked.”
Spicer said that existing barriers are flawed because they have places “where cars can literally create little things and drive over.”
“This is what exists right now throughout our country,” Spicer said. “You’ve got places that can get burrowed under. That one they’ve cut through.”
He said that Trump’s administration will use “previously deployed and operationally effective designs such as currently deployed steel bollard designs that prioritize agent safety.”
“Just one question about the photos,” Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering asked. “Are those photos of fences or walls?”
“That is called a bollard wall, that is called a levee wall,” Spicer replied, gesturing to the images. “There are various walls that can be built under the legislation that was just passed. It allows us to do that.”
“What is that?” Spiering asked again, interrupting.
“That is called a levee wall on the left,” Spicer said, voice rising. “That is called a bollard wall.”
“So that’s not a wall, it’s a levee wall?” Spiering pressed.
“That’s what it’s actually called. That’s the name of it,” Spicer replied.
“So you’re building fencing, not walls,” Spiering said.
“What we’ve done is taken the tools that we have to replace and if you look at that one in particular, you’ve got a chain-link fence,” Spicer said. “That is literally down there now. We are able to go in there and instead of having a chain-link fence, replace with it that bollard wall.”
“That’s not the wall the President promised, though,” another reporter said.
“You’re basically just telling supporters, the President’s supporters, to be satisfied with this existing tough-guy fencing until he’s ready to build the wall,” Spiering added.
“No, what I’m telling anybody is that the President said he was going to build the wall and he’s doing it,” Spicer said. “That’s what I’m telling you.”
Spicer explains The Wall™ https://t.co/fts3RmNh8i
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 3, 2017
There seems to be some disagreement within the White House as to what constitutes a wall and what constitutes a fence. In April, Department of Homeland Security John Kelly referred to walls and bollard barriers as entirely different types of structure.
“There are places along the border, and I would offer to you, down in the southern Rio Grande valley, where a wall, a concrete wall, makes all the sense in the world,” he told Bloomberg. “There are other places where a see-through wall, say a large bollard, if you will, fence, makes a lot of sense.”
Trump has so far sailed above the controversy by refusing to back down from his campaign pledge of a “big, beautiful” concrete wall, not a fence, along the entire southern border of the United States.