As Fox News, President Donald Trump, and right-wing commentators continue to shamelessly exploit the murder of 20-year-old Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts to advance their anti-immigrant narrative and cruel policy agenda, members of Tibbetts' family are forcefully pushing back against this "small-minded" effort to use the horrific killling of a young woman as a political prop.
"The family of Mollie Tibbetts asked conservative commentators to stop using her death to stir up racist vitriol. They won't, because they don't give a damn about her. They care about stirring up racist vitriol. Period."
"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," Sam Lucas, a second cousin of Tibbetts, wrote on Twitter in response to Candace Owens, communications director for the right-wing group Turning Point USA. "Now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousin's death as political propaganda. Take her name out of your mouth."
"Mollie's death is not political propaganda to bring up your 'build the wall' bullshit," Lucas added in a separate tweet. "Stop."
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
The flood of right-wing commentary and headlines on Tibbetts' murder came after it was revealed that the man who confessed to killing her—24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera—appears to be an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
Remaining faithful to their well-worn xenophobic playbook despite repeated pleas from Tibbetts' family to stop using their loved one's death as a talking point, Trump and Fox News quickly seized upon Tibbetts' murder as further evidence of the supposed need for a harsh border crackdown.
"It's not about race, it's about people joining together to do good."
—Billie Jo Calderwood, Mollie Tibbetts' aunt
In video posted on Twitter late Wednesday, Trump proclaimed that Tibbetts has been "permanently separated from her family"—a choice of words that was in all likelihood not accidental—and said "we need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed."
Just hours after Trump's video appeared online, Billie Jo Calderwood—Mollie's aunt—told CNN in an interview that she doesn't "want Mollie's memory to get lost amongst politics."
"It's not about race, it's about people joining together to do good," Calderwood added.
Calderwood expressed a similar sentiment in a Facebook post on Tuesday, writing: "Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship, and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you."
Writer Thor Benson argued in a series of tweets late Wednesday, that the Tibbetts family's efforts to stop the right-wing politicization of Mollie's death have not been effective because right-wingers on Fox News and in the White House don't really care about Tibbetts—they care only about scoring political points and riling up xenophobia among the conservative base.
"The family of Mollie Tibbetts asked conservative commentators to stop using her death to stir up racist vitriol. They won't, because they don't give a damn about her. They care about stirring up racist vitriol. Period," Benson wrote. "And the White House is doing it for the same reason."
At the core of the right's political exploitation of Tibbetts' murder is their pet-narrative that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a disproportionate rate. But as Buzzfeed notes, researchers have found "little support for the enduring proposition that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime."
Even the libertarian Cato Institute admitted in a study published earlier this year that "criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans."