Mollie Tibbetts’ Family Push Back Against Politics

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The family members of murdered college student Mollie Tibbets are fighting back against an anti-immigration narrative that many politicians are adopting in her name.

In July, 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbets went jogging in her small town of Brooklyn, Iowa, and never came back. After a month of searching, police arrested 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera after security footage showed him following Tibbets in his car. Rivera confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Tibbets, before leading them to the body, hidden in a cornfield in nearby Poweshiek County.


Since Rivera’s arrest, a narrative surrounding his questionable immigration status has gained traction, led largely by prominent conservative politicians and pundits.

“Should have never happened. Illegally in our country,” President Trump said at a rally in West Virginia. “We’ve had a huge impact, but the laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting it changed but we have to get more Republicans.”

In a tweet, political pundit Bill O’Reilly had this to say:


But through all the arguments and politicizing, Tibbetts’ family has had enough.

Tibbetts’ cousin, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, claimed on Facebook that the murder had more to do with toxic masculinity than illegal immigration. She went on to scold politicians who sought to use her family as a pawn in an anti-immigration narrative.

“You do not get to usurp Mollie and her legacy for your racist, false narrative now that she is no longer with us,” said Murphy. “We hereby reclaim our Mollie.

“Please remember, evil comes in EVERY color,” Billie Jo Calderwood, Tibbetts’ aunt, said in a now-deleted Facebook post.

While giving the eulogy for his daughter, Rob Tibbetts reminded the gathered crowd of over a thousand that “Today, we need to turn the page.” He went on to praise the local Hispanic community for their kindness during the search for Mollie.

“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.”

Cristhian Bahena Rivera currently awaits trial for first-degree murder.


Online editor for Hers magazine.

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