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 political football, mainly for far-right commentators and politicians who’ve made a name for 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.
“This is a real problem,” Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News. “Not a single American citizen, not the Tibbetts family, not the Steinle family, not the Durden family should lose their child and be permanently separated because someone was in this country and the laws were not enforced.”
Conservative bomb thrower Tomi Lahren pushed a similar narrative:
“Hey liberals, you wanna talk about child separation?” Lahren started out in a video posted to Twitter. “How about this: Twenty-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts has been violently and permanently separated from her parents at the hands of an illegal immigrant. …Wake up, Americans — illegal immigration kills.”
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) August 22, 2018
But according to some vocal members of Tibbetts’ family, 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 earthshaking 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.”
hey i’m a member of mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals. now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda. take her name out of your mouth. https://t.co/xxZNBF0Uv9
— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018
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.
Owens then accused Lucas of being more angry at Trump supporters than the person who killed her cousin.
“I find it strange that you have directed obscenities and hate towards people that support the President, but you have not directed a single bad word toward the monster who committed this terrible crime,” Owens tweeted in response.
That didn’t go over well, and Owens was immediately slammed for telling Lucas how to grieve.
Regardless of the pushback from certain members of Tibbetts’ family, it likely won’t slow the effort to make her murder an immigration lighting rod. According to The Hill, former Speaker Newt Gingrich thinks the story will be a good way to bring more Republican voters out for the midterms.
“If Mollie Tibbetts is a household name by October, Democrats will be in deep trouble,” he told Axios in an article published Wednesday. “If we can be blocked by Manafort-Cohen, etc., then GOP could lose [the House] badly.”
Featured image via Facebook