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Sen. Katie Britt acknowledges anecdote used to criticize Biden’s border policies didn’t happen during his presidency

Alabama Sen. Katie Britt on Sunday acknowledged that the graphic anecdote she employed to criticize President Joe Biden’s border policies didn’t occur during his presidency.

During the Republican response to the State of the Union address on Thursday, Britt described a woman’s story of being “sex trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12” before saying, “President Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace. It’s despicable. And it’s almost entirely preventable.”

Asked by Fox News’ Shannon Bream on Sunday whether she meant to give the impression that the story had taken place during Biden’s time in office, Britt responded: “No, Shannon,” before criticizing the president’s border policies.

“I very clearly said I spoke to a woman who told me about when she was trafficked when she was 12. So I didn’t say a teenager, I didn’t say a young woman, a grown woman. A woman, when she was trafficked, when she was 12,” Britt said.

In a detailed video posted on TikTok on Friday, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz tracked down what appears to be the story Britt referenced and found that it happened in Mexico in the mid-2000s.

Katz cited a 2023 press release from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who, along with Sens. Britt and Cindy Hyde-Smith, went to Eagle Pass, Texas, in January 2023 – shortly after Britt took office – to hear from Karla Jacinto, a human trafficking survivor, among others.

“The Senators learned about cartel activity in Mexico and the work being done to rescue victims of human trafficking,” the press release said.

Jacinto has shared her story publicly, including in a 2015 hearing on sex trafficking held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights. Through a translator, she said that for four years, starting from the age of 12, she was “emotionally and sexually violated time and time again.” She explained how, at age 16, she was able to escape to a shelter and “grow into the activist” she became.

Jacinto told CNN on Sunday that she was trafficked before Biden’s presidency and said legislators lack empathy when using the issue of human trafficking for political purposes.

“I hardly ever cooperate with politicians, because it seems to me that they only want an image. They only want a photo — and that to me is not fair,” she told CNN’s Rafael Romo.

CNN reached out to the senator’s office seeking comment Sunday.

Britt has previously referenced the story she gave Thursday – including on Capitol Hill on September 27, 2023, according to her social media account.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN in a statement Sunday, “Instead of telling more debunked lies to justify opposing the toughest bipartisan border legislation in modern history, Senator Britt should stop choosing human smugglers and fentanyl traffickers over our national security and the Border Patrol Union.”

Senate Republicans last month blocked a major bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package that would have enacted restrictive border measures amid a torrent of attacks on the bill by former President Donald Trump and top House Republicans.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Rafael Romo contributed to this story.

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