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The GOP Is Trying to Weaponize Mollie Tibbetts’ Murder to Stir Up Fear of Immigrants

daca, immigration, animals, trump, racism, ms-13

Yesterday, a body believed to be that of Mollie Tibbetts was found weeks after the 20-year-old Iowa student went missing during an evening run. It’s a devasting end to a search that’s lasted weeks. The man suspected of abducting and killing her is 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who lived in Iowa as an undocumented immigrant for a number of years. Immediately, a number of Republican politicians and conservative media figures began weaponizing and politicizing that fact to make this woman’s murder an argument against immigration, and it is truly despicable.

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Shortly after the news broke, Trump was at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, and he told the crowd that American immigration laws are “a disgrace.” He also asked the crowd if they’d heard about “the illegal alien” from Mexico, despite the fact that Rivera’s lawyer insists claims of an “illegal” status are false.

Iowa’s Republican governor criticized a “broken immigration system” that “allowed a predator like this to live in our community.” The White House is also putting out videos like this:

The communications director for the conservative organization Turning Point USA had a particularly awful take:

There are others like Candace there who are practically (if not entirely) gloating over this issue, as if they’re “owning the libs” and providing proof that Democrats and liberals are too soft on immigration issues. What they do not seem to care about is that an actual woman was murdered, only how her death promotes their agenda—or, more accurately, how her death makes Democrats look bad.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said exactly that in an email to Axios reporter Mike Allen, checking to make sure they’d be covering the story specifically so that it would overshadow the Cohen/Manafort news and hurt Democrats in the primaries.

“If Mollie Tibbetts is a household name by October, Democrats will be in deep trouble,” he wrote. “If we can be blocked by Manafort-Cohen, etc., then GOP could lose [the House] badly.”

People like this do not care about the death of a young woman. If they did, they might show interest in issues like toxic masculinity, entitlement & rape culture, or any of the other motivations that drive men to stalk and kill women. Instead, they’re trying to convince voters that “illegal immigration” is in itself a cause of death or a motivation for murder.

These are the same people who claim liberals are “politicizing” tragedy by wanting to talk about gun reform following a mass shooting, but are fine borderline celebrating a woman’s death because it works to vilify all Hispanic immigrants.

Mollie Tibbett’s cousin took to Twitter to call out this kind of behavior, specifically responding to Candace Owens.

Her aunt has also released a statement with a similar sentiment.

What those conservatives are doing is nothing more than fear-mongering, and it dehumanizes the actual victims of these crimes. This isn’t the first time Trump and other Republicans have done this, and it won’t be the last. Fear is a very convincing weapon, and they’re going to use it any way they can.

It is possible to mourn the death of a young woman, and to condemn her killer, without turning them both into symbols to be used for a racist attack on all Hispanic immigrants.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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