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Fox News' Laura Ingraham says immigrant child detention centers are 'essentially summer camps'

Laura Ingraham, a television and radio talk show host, on stage during an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, in National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23, 2018. (Pete Marovich/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)

Former first lady Laura Bush called them "eerily reminiscent of ... internment camps."

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., saw "big cages made out of fencing," and former CIA director Michael Hayden made a not-so-subtle comparison using a picture - of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

But on Monday, Fox News host Laura Ingraham offered a different description of the facilities used to house migrant children separated from their undocumented parents:

Summer camps.

"Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents and temporarily housed in what are essentially summer camps, or as the San Diego Union-Tribune described them today as looking like basically boarding schools," she said on her show, the Ingraham Angle, on Monday.

Amid growing outrage over the practice of separating children from parents detained at the border - and the conditions of their care - prominent conservatives have taken to the airwaves to defend the Trump administration's actions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example, called the concentration camp comparison "a real exaggeration, of course. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country." He later told Fox News, "We're doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children."

On Sunday, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said,without evidence, that the migrant children photographed at detention facilities or otherwise in distress were child actors.

"These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now; do not fall for it, Mr. President," she said on Fox News. "I get very nervous about the president getting his news from TV."

And on Monday, Ingraham said liberals "seized on the separated children and turned the entire image into a political weapon."

Ingraham may also be in the crossfire: Her comments have some calling a boycott her show's advertisers, including an anonymous group that aims to drive advertisers away from purveyors of hate speech.

The images in question showed children locked inside cages formed by metal gates, sleeping in groups on child-sized mats under thermal blankets that look like giant sheets of aluminum foil. The photos were released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Later in the broadcast, Ingraham said a lot of people were upset at the summer camp description, and backtracked. She alluded to the San Diego Union Tribune story again, and said, "I will stick to there are some of them like boarding schools."

A piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune does liken the facilities to boarding schools, but it also details their prisonlike attributes:

On closer inspection, details about the California-licensed child care facility run by Southwest Key Programs reflect the situation of the children it serves.

It's surrounded by fencing that is backed by privacy netting, and a sign at the gate warns visitors that it's under video surveillance 24 hours per day. If someone opens the front door of the facility without first swiping a badge, an alarm blares through the hallway, warning of a potential escape.

Many people were not pleased with Ingraham's description.

Among her chief critics was Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg, who was embroiled in a Twitter feud with Ingraham earlier this year.

In March, Ingraham mocked Hogg's comments on Twitter about getting rejection letters from colleges. She retweeted a story from a conservative news site that described Hogg as a "Gun Rights Provocateur," then added: "David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it," Ingraham tweeted. "(Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA ... totally predictable given acceptance rates.)"

She later apologized, but Hogg went on the offensive, calling the Fox News host a bully whose statements toward him were in line with harsh statements she'd made about others.

Hogg went on Twitter, compiling a list of the top companies that advertise on "The Ingraham Angle" and encouraging his followers to message and boycott them. In a matter of days, Ingraham lost more than a dozen advertisers, including Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Hulu, Jenny Craig, Ruby Tuesday and Miracle-Ear.

On Tuesday, following the summer camp statement, Hogg was again urging people to reach out to the Ingraham Angle's advertisers.

"If we get these advertisers pulled maybe (Ingraham) will have to become a camp counselor and learn how wrong she is," Hogg said, before listing some of the host's sponsors.