As the murder of Mollie Tibbetts and the arrest of her alleged killer dominate the headlines, it’s no surprise that the story has become a lighting rod for right-wing commentators and politicians who fashion themselves as immigration hawks.
Tibbetts, the 20-year-old Iowa college student who was reported missing more than a month ago, was found dead in an Iowa cornfield this Tuesday. On the same day, authorities charged 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera with her murder. Although Rivera’s lawyer said he was in the country legally, authorities originally claimed Rivera was undocumented, a claim seized upon by politicians and pundits looking to frame the murder as a symptom of illegal immigration.
Fox News has been running that narrative as well, and on Thursday it was called out by one of its own correspondents.
In a segment flagged by Media Matters, Geraldo Rivera slammed the network for blowing the suspect’s immigration status out of proportion. He also called out host Martha McCallum for harping on the talking point that Tibbetts would still be alive today if the U.S. had stronger immigration policies.
“We, at this network, are putting that spin on this story,” Rivera said. “This is a murder story. It’s not an immigration story.”
“I know that most of the Fox audience disagrees with me,” he continued, “but I’m begging you to have compassion and not brand this entire population by the deeds of this one person.”
Geraldo Rivera calls out Fox News for their Mollie Tibbetts murder coverage:
— Media Matters (@mmfa) August 24, 2018
Some vocal members of Tibbetts’ family agree and have said in various social media posts that this is not the narrative they want to define her death. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Tibbetts’ aunt Bille Jo Calderwood reminded people that evil “comes in EVERY color.” Calderwood also shared a Facebook post from another apparent family member, Kasie Schultz Taylor, who wrote: “What happened to Mollie was an awful, heinous act. But please do not compound the atrocity of what happened to her by adding racism and hate to the equation.”
One of the most notable rebukes came from Tibbetts’ cousin, Sam Lucas, who went viral on Twitter after calling out commentator and Trump supporter Candace Owens for using Tibbetts’ death as “political propaganda.”
In a tweet replying to Owens, Sam Lucas pointed out that her family isn’t “so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals” and asked Owens to “stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda. [Take] her name out of your mouth.”
Lucas followed up with another tweet telling Owens that her politicization of Tibbett’s death is “not helping” her grieving family.
Featured image via screen grab