Was Trump’s Prayer Rugs Tweet Really From ‘Sicario 2’?

President Donald Trump often tweets about his proposed border wall with anti-immigrant talking points from right-wing figures like Sean Hannity, but a recent tweet raised eyebrows from movie critics across the country. Did Trump unknowingly pull a plot point from Sicario: Day of the Soldado to bolster his administration's fabricated narrative about Muslim terrorists infiltrating the United States across the southern border with Mexico?

“Border rancher: We've found prayer rugs out here. It's unreal.” Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise,” Trump posted to his Twitter feed Friday morning, one in a series of tweets about the border, a migrant caravan and Republican solidarity with his government shutdown. One simply reads “AMERICA FIRST!”

Trump's tweet cites conservative tabloid the Washington Examiner, which ran an article Wednesday with the prayer rugs quote.

“Chinese, Germans, Russians, a lot of Middle Easterners,” a rancher, granted anonymity “for fear of retaliation by cartels,” told the Examiner. “There's a lot of people coming in, from not just Mexico, and the general public just don't get the terrorist facts of that. And that's what's really scary, is that you don't know what's coming across. We've found prayer rugs out here. It's unreal. It's not just Mexican nationals coming over.”

“Have you seen some of these people?” the Examiner's Anna Giaritelli can be heard asking off camera.

“No, I've never run into any,” she says. “I've never seen any Middle Easterners. I've seen prayer rugs out here.”

Giaritelli was previously a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, an organization that works to decrease both illegal and legal immigration. The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly linked the group to white nationalists.

The single anonymous claim made by the rancher fits a long-running right-wing narrative, with little evidence to support its claim that violent militant Muslims use the southern border to sneak into the United States. A major component of this narrative is the alleged Islamic prayer rugs found along the border.

This was also a plot point in 2018's Sicario: Day of the Soldado, a sequel to the 2015 drug-cartel thriller Sicario. Pundits and movie critics were quick to cite the movie as one potential source for the otherwise evidence-less claim:

“Dude staking his entire presidency on the mistaken belief that Sicario: Day of the Soldado was a documentary,” IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich tweeted.

However, Sicario: Day of the Soldado didn't invent the idea of Muslim prayer rugs found along the border. David Dewhurst, former lieutenant governor of Texas, made a similar false claim in 2014. The concept has been a recurring meme at right-wing outlets like Breitbart, though no evidence has ever been provided beyond anonymous claims (often second or third hand), similar to the Examiner story.

The power of the border Islamic prayer rug myth depends on the racist presumption that any Muslim engaged in prayer is presumptively a terrorist. Nor do the claims explain why a Muslim crossing the border from Mexico would leave behind a prayer rug, which would otherwise see daily use.

Trump administration officials, including Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, have repeatedly exaggerated or fabricated statistics about terrorists coming over the border between the United States and Mexico, such as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders's claim that Customs and Border Protection have caught nearly 4,000 suspected terrorists. In data provided to Congress, the agency said only 41 people from the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered along the border from October 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018; 35 of the 41 were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

In its 2017 report, the State Department concluded that “there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”

Perhaps this whole saga will somehow come up in the plot for Sicario 3. Now Hollywood just has to figure out a way to cast Benicio del Toro in a tweet.