Critics have seized on Donald Trump’s televised address to the United States, accusing the President of manufacturing a crisis to distract the public from his administration’s problems.
Speaking from the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday night local time, Mr Trump defended the ongoing partial shutdown of the government and insisted his contentious border wall was necessary for national security.
The President declared the situation at the country’s southern border with Mexico a “crisis of the heart”.
But in a speech immediately responding to his remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Mr Trump of “holding the American people hostage” for his own benefit.
Ms Pelosi said the president had “chosen fear” in making the case for a border wall and Democrats “want to start with the facts.”
“The fact is, President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government,” Ms Pelosi said.
She said “we all agree that we need to secure our borders”, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the President had “just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration”.
The scathing rebuttal to Mr Trump’s Oval Office address comes as the partial shutdown of the government drags on for 18 days and counting, with no imminent end in sight.
Legislation to reopen the government was passed by the new Congress, but the President rejected it because it was missing funding for his contentious border wall.
Ms Pelosi said the “symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall”.
Critics have pounced on Mr Trump’s remarks, claiming a number of errors presented as fact.
Among them, Mr Trump claimed the Democrats had previously supported the notion of a wall at the border and accused them of backflipping simply because he was president.
The Washington Post said Mr Schumer, Hillary Clinton and a number of other Democrats had voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which allowed the construction of a fence along a stretch of the border.
However, that structure was not nearly as “substantial” as the wall Mr Trump proposed, and the President has previously described that fence as “a nothing wall”, the newspaper said.
Mr Trump said the recently negotiated trade deal with Mexico, which is yet to be ratified by Congress, would “indirectly” fund his wall. This is another disputed claim.
His emotive address, which he said was in response to a worsening “humanitarian crisis” at the border, also touched on the scourge of drugs.
“Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroine alone, 90 per cent of which floods across from our southern border,” Mr Trump said.
However, virtually all of the heroin smuggled into the US from Mexico is done so via legal points of entry, The Washington Post said. The wall would do little, if anything, to stop it.
Mr Trump also cited immigrant crime as one of the major cases for building a wall, but countless studies over the past decade have declared that foreign-born residents are less likely to commit crime than people born in the US.
Fox News presenter Shepard Smith also took the president to task, describing “a number of claims” as being deliberately misleading.
Smith told viewers that illegal border crossings have been going “steadily down over the past 10 years” despite Mr Trump claiming they were on the rise.
“As for the trade deal he mentioned with Mexico, which he said would pay for the wall, that trade deal is not yet complete,” he added.
Mr Trump also claimed that law enforcement agencies and advisers had requested the US$5.7 billion in funding for the wall, but Mr Smith said it was the president himself who had.
He added that it Mr Trump “himself said he would own the shutdown”.
The president said 4000 people attempting to cross the US-Mexican border were on terrorist watch lists, but the actual number is six.
By comparison, 41 people on watch lists have been intercepted at the border with Canada.