Ricochet’s Bethany Mandel wrote a good, thoughtful piece the other day on the inclination of partisans to immediately politicize certain types of tragedies — the latest example being the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, after the revelation that her suspected killer was in this country illegally.
As Mandel points out, such circumstances elevate what would typically be considered a local crime story to a politically-hot national story, compelling vocal players from both sides of the immigration debate to jockey for position.
We see a similar call to arms in the wake of mass-shootings, in regard to gun control. And unfortunately, what’s often lost in such battles is sensitivity to the pain felt by the families of the victims.
Mandel writes the following:
“I can’t help but think about Mollie’s parents today, and the awful fraternity of families they have joined. Mollie’s parents, like those killed in Sandy Hook and Parkland, and the parents of Seth Rich have experienced the most excruciating loss imaginable, the violent murder of their child, and then watched that child’s death politicized and turned into conspiracy theories and political volleyballs.”
Her point is something everyone should consider, even those who have legitimate reasons for believing that their political stances, had they been implemented into law, could have spared the victim(s).
What makes the Tibbetts story somewhat unique is that it was immediately met with a second tier of politicization, due to the timing of when news of her fate broke. It all unfolded last Tuesday, just as two former close associates of President Trump — Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen — were being convicted of (in Cohen’s case it was a plea deal) multiple serious crimes.
Bizarrely but perhaps not unsurprisingly, this led to a number of political pundits converging these completely unrelated (and very different) stories into a larger narrative, with the clear intent to trivialize the story they found less accommodating to their political sensibilities.
On the Right, commentators suggested that because no one was killed in the cases of Manafort and Cohen, Americans shouldn’t deem their legal woes (and their potential to harm President Trump) to be worthy of public interest. This sentiment was expressed rather vehemently on Fox News’s The Five (before being carried over to the network’s prime-time shows).
“In terms of what is important, I think no one at the Trump rally tonight will give a damn about Manafort or Cohen, but [the Tibbetts case] will probably be fresh in their minds,” Greg Gutfeld said. He later added, “I know that Cohen isn’t squeaky clean. I know Manafort isn’t squeaky clean. Hell, I know Trump isn’t squeaky clean. That’s filler for local radio.”
Gutfeld went on to dismiss the media attention Manafort and Cohen were receiving as attempts to “reverse an election.”
Dagen McDowell said that people would be talking about the Tibbetts case and illegal immigration over the dinner table that night, “rather than two bad white collar criminals.”
“I just can’t believe we’re talking about this,” Dan Bongino complained, referring to the coverage of Manafort and Cohen. He described the Cohen story as a “taxi cab confession” and dismissed Manafort’s conviction as meaningless. “I mean, this is incredible,” he added.
Some on the Left portrayed coverage of the Tibbetts murder as little more than a conservative-media distraction from Manafort and Cohen. Referring to the two former Trump associates, frequent MSNBC guest, Christina Greer, reflected those sentiments.
“I’m sure we’ll hear what [Trump] has to say about this at his rally,” said Greer, “but Fox News is talking about a girl in Iowa and not this, right?”
Juan Williams made a similar point, chiding the producers of yesterday’s The Five (along with his co-hosts) for leading the show with the Tibbetts story.
“In Trump’s case he’s using this to distract and deceive people,” said Williams. “In terms of the big news of the day which is about the Michael Cohen plea deal, about Paul Manafort being convicted. At this point you have the president’s personal lawyer, his campaign chairman, his national security advisor — all convicted felons. And oh no… Instead, we want to talk about a murder. Well there are lots of murders in America. There’s a lower rate of violent crime among illegal immigrants and immigrants than there is among native-born Americans. But guess what, there are some people who say, Let’s not talk about Trump because it’s bad news for Trump.“
While Williams made a valid point about media-conservatives not wanting to focus on bad news for Trump (one of the points I made above), the idea of the Tibbetts murder not warranting at least a few days of national coverage is just as flawed as the logic used by some of Williams’ co-hosts.
On Twitter, SooperMexican effectively summed up the situation:
CNN & MSNBC: NO ONE cares about Molllie Tibbetts illegal killer, focus on impeachment!!!
FOX NEWS: NO ONE cares about Cohen and Manafort, FOCUS on Mollie Tibbetts illegal killer!!!!
Me: I own more than one functioning brain cell, I can do both, guys.
— ¡El Sooopèrr! ن c137 (@SooperMexican) August 22, 2018
Both stories warrant coverage, and neither story has anything to do with the other. Comparing and contrasting the two, for the sake of minimizing one of them, is pure politics. And with a situation as personally agonizing as the Tibbetts murder, the young victim’s family doesn’t need a second level of politicization to have to deal with right now.
One is assuredly hard enough.