A 20-year-old University of Iowa student disappeared while jogging July 18, sparking an extensive month-long search near her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, a rural community east of Des Moines.
On Aug. 21, Mollie Tibbetts' body was located in a field. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 24-year-old Mexican man who illegally came to the United States, was charged with her murder after he confessed to following her on her run. He had led the authorities to her body.
Tibbetts' family was left to mourn her loss. But only hours later, they were forced to face the politicization of her death.
A day after her body was found, the White House Twitter account posted this message:
“For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder, led police to the cornfield where her body was found. The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone.”
Other politicians, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Vice President Mike Pence and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton joined in, blaming the tragedy on a failure to clamp down on immigration.
Members of the Tibbetts family have spoken out against such claims.
Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, one of Mollie's cousins, responded with a statement she posted to her Facebook account. She condemned those who would “usurp Mollie and her legacy for your racist, false narrative now that she is no longer with us.”
While he has not publicly addressed comments made by President Donald Trump and others, in his eulogy, Mollie's father, Rob Tibbetts, highlighted how the local Hispanic community embraced him as he searched for his daughter.
“The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he said. “As far as I'm concerned, they're Iowans with better food.”
Mollie Tibbetts' death isn't the only example of a tragedy promptly politicized.
On Sunday, game enthusiast David Katz gunned down two fellow gamers during a “Madden 19” tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Katz later killed himself.
But as news reports were still coming in, the focus quickly turned to gun laws as it has with previous mass shootings, including the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
This is not to say that the conversations aren't needed, they are. The issues facing the U.S. in regard to its borders and gun violence need to be addressed.
But in the wake of a tragedy, is that the first thing that needs to be mentioned? What about the families who are mourning? What about the victims? Can we learn about them, talk about them, before moving on to the issues?
The victims and their families need to be shown respect. Let them find peace. Then, we can face the tough questions and hopefully find answers.