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In an August 15 OpinionJournal.com op-ed, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund argued that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, is repositioning himself on immigration issues. Fund claimed Richardson "asked Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteer border patrol group Minutemen, for a meeting." Richardson has since dismissed Fund's claim as a "total fabrication," and Simcox himself refuted Fund, stating it was the Minutemen who reached out to Richardson -- not the other way around. On August 18, the Journal republished (subscription only) Fund's August 15 op-ed on its website, but removed -- without editorial notation -- Fund's claim that Richardson requested a meeting with Simcox.
In his August 15 op-ed, Fund wrote:
The politics of immigration are changing. On Friday Bill Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, declared a "state of emergency" in four New Mexico border counties due to "a chaotic situation involving illegal alien smuggling and illegal drug shipments." His office has pledged $1.5 million for stepped-up law enforcement and also asked Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteer border patrol group Minutemen, for a meeting. Mr. Richardson, a man who wears his ambition for national office on his sleeve, has apparently decided he has to reposition himself on border issues.
Richardson appeared on the August 15 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson and addressed Fund's claim directly:
GIBSON (host): Democrat Bill Richardson has promised $1.5 million to fight crime in those counties. He's also asked to meet with the leader of the volunteer border patrol group the Minutemen. Governor Richardson joins to us to talk about this state of emergency. Governor, we're always worried about drugs and illegal alien smuggling, but what about the potential as a port of entry for terrorists?
RICHARDSON: Well, first of all, one thing in your report, I have not asked the Minutemen to do anything. In fact, I don't believe their function is the right one.
GIBSON: All right. Now, Governor, we put up a map that shows a lot of the important federal emplacements along the border. And this should illustrate why the terrorism situation would be important to Americans. But, I've got to go back. According to The Wall Street Journal, you have asked to meet with the volunteer group the Minutemen. If you're not asking for their help, what do you want to meet with them about?
RICHARDSON: Well, no, that's a total fabrication. In fact, I have said that I don't believe that the Minutemen should proceed into New Mexico, that I think that this is a case where trained law enforcement personnel, Border Patrol, sheriff's department, local New Mexico state police.So that report is totally false. I don't know where they came up with it. In fact, I have said that I don't believe the Minutemen are needed in New Mexico. In fact, this is why I took this action, to beef up law enforcement hirings in the New Mexico border.
An August 16 Albuquerque Journal article quoted Richardson policy adviser Bill Hume similarly denying Fund's claim:
Some Mexican media erroneously reported Richardson wanted to fence off the New Mexico border. A newspaper in the United States wrongly said Richardson was courting the help of Minutemen volunteers.
"Totally wrong," Hume said.
Hume said Richardson has no plans to meet with the Minutemen, the volunteer group that occupied Arizona's southern border this spring. Richardson hopes his commitment to border security might keep the Minutemen from carrying out a planned October blitz in New Mexico, Hume said.
"We do not look with favor on volunteer civilian border guards," he said.
Simcox himself also refuted Fund's claim that Richardson had reached out to the Minutemen. On the August 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Simcox told co-host Sean Hannity that it was the Minutemen who "pitched the idea of a meeting" with Richardson. Simcox claimed that Richardson's staff was amenable to the idea but never followed up.
From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Governor Richardson, for example, you apparently had been talking to him. He told me today that he has no desire to meet with you and doesn't want you doing this job. There have been discussions with his office or no?
SIMCOX: Had been discussions with staff members, and we pitched the idea of a meeting. They felt it was a good thing so that we could clear the air, talk about our procedures and what our intentions were. At that point, they seemed to drop off.
On August 18, The Wall Street Journal republished the August 15 op-ed on its website but removed Fund's mention of Simcox and the Minutemen without providing editorial notation or a correction:
The politics of immigration are changing in America. Last Friday Bill Richardson, America's only Hispanic governor, declared a "state of emergency" in four counties along the U.S. border with Mexico due to "a chaotic situation involving illegal alien smuggling and illegal drug shipments." The Democrat governor of New Mexico, a man who wears his ambition for national office on his sleeve, has apparently decided he has to reposition himself on immigration issues.
A correction note in Fund's column might have alerted The Washington Times that its August 16 editorial, which was strikingly similar to Fund's August 15 op-ed that made the same claim that Richardson reached out to Simcox, also requires correction.