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Sen. Katie Britt defends citing sex trafficking victim's story to slam Biden, as 'SNL' tackles her speech

Alabama Sen. Katie Britt is defending how she described the experience of a woman who was the victim of human trafficking -- an account Britt pointed to when criticizing President Joe Biden's border policies as part of the official Republican response to his State of the Union speech.

Despite what Britt implied, the abuse the woman endured occurred more than 15 years ago in Mexico, rather than more recently in the U.S., according to multiple news reports.

In her rebuttal to Biden on Thursday night, Britt said: "We know that President Biden didn't just create this border crisis. He invited it .... When I first took office, I did something different. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas, where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12."

"We wouldn't be OK with this happening in a third-world country. This is the United States of America, and it's past time we start acting like it," Britt continued. "President Biden's border crisis is a disgrace. It's despicable. And it's almost entirely preventable."

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According to reports in The Washington Post, The New York Times and Associated Press, the victim Britt was referencing has chronicled her abuse in the past, saying it happened in Mexico between 2004 and 2008 -- during George W. Bush's presidency.

The woman, a Mexican citizen named Karla Jacinto Romero, told the Times she learned about Britt's remarks via social media and found it "very strange."

"I am involved in the fight to stop trafficking and I don't think it should be political," she told the paper.

A spokesman for Britt challenged the criticism about mentioning Romero to attack Biden, saying in a statement to multiple reporters in part that "the story Senator Britt told was 100% correct. And there are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before right now."

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Britt also said she didn't bring up Romero to intentionally blame Biden for what happened to her -- but rather to point to it as an example of the trafficking that is still going on.

PHOTO: Sen. Katie Britt listens during a news conference on border security at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Sen. Katie Britt listens during a news conference on border security at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

"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. And so listening to her story, she is a victim's right advocate who is telling this is what drug cartels are doing, this is how they're profiting off of women," Britt said. "And it is disgusting. And so I am hopeful that it brings some light to -- to it, and we can actually do something about human trafficking and that that's what the media actually decides to cover."

Still, her use of Romero's story was called out on Sunday by Biden's transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg.

"I'll leave it to her to explain the falsehoods, but I think it illustrates the bigger issue," Buttigieg told ABC News "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "She's a United States senator and the United States Senate right now could be acting to help secure the southern border."

He highlighted a recent bipartisan agreement on immigration changes that didn't pass the chamber as former President Donald Trump criticized it at the same time that polls show Biden's handling of the border is broadly disapproved of.

Buttigieg said the proposal included "tough compromises for all sides, something that the bases of both parties might not have loved but that would have made a real positive difference -- only for that to be killed by the chill effect that the former president put on congressional Republicans, telling them not to support anything that would represent a policy win for President Biden."

Trump said the proposal was insufficient to fix the problem.

Britt, at 42, is the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the Senate and an attorney and former Senate aide. She is seen as a rising star within her party and was tapped to give the GOP's official response to Biden, which she delivered on Thursday night from her kitchen.

"Tonight, the American family needs to have a tough conversation because the truth is we are all worried about the future of our nation. The country we know and love seems to be slipping away, and it feels like the next generation will have fewer opportunities and less freedoms than we did," she said during approximately 17-minute remarks. "I worry my own children may not even get a shot at living their American dream."

"The true unvarnished state of our union begins and ends with this: Our families are hurting," she said then.

Her State of the Union response was satirized on "Saturday Night Live," with actress Scarlett Johansson mimicking Britt's mannerisms, including what some viewers noted was her penchant for changing her voice as she spoke and her somewhat dramatic delivery.

PHOTO: Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama delivers the Republican response following President Biden's State of the Union speech, Mar. 7, 2024, while Scarlett Johansson plays her in the opening of Saturday Night Live, Mar. 9, 2024. (ABC News/NBC)
PHOTO: Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama delivers the Republican response following President Biden's State of the Union speech, Mar. 7, 2024, while Scarlett Johansson plays her in the opening of Saturday Night Live, Mar. 9, 2024. (ABC News/NBC)

"I have the honor of serving the great people of Alabama, but tonight I'll be auditioning for the part of scary mom and I'll be performing an original monologue called 'This country is hell,'" Johansson-as-Britt said on the show.

She joked that she was speaking from her kitchen "because Republicans wanted to me to appeal to woman voters and women love kitchen."

She also referenced Britt's use of the Romero anecdote.

"First and foremost, I'm a mom. And like any mom, I'm going to do a pivot out of nowhere into a shockingly violent story about sex trafficking -- and rest assured every detail about it is real except the year, where it took place and who was president when it happened."

The real Britt, appearing on Fox News on Sunday, said the choice of her kitchen was intentional.

"Republicans care about kitchen table issues," she said. " We care about faith, family, we care about freedom. We are the ones talking about the economy and the real effects of that."

ABC News' Fritz Farrow and Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.

Sen. Katie Britt defends citing sex trafficking victim's story to slam Biden, as 'SNL' tackles her speech originally appeared on abcnews.go.com