Mollie Tibbetts’ Father Calls For Public To Stop Politicizing Her Death In Emotional Op-Ed

"Please leave us out of your debate."

When Mollie Tibbetts went missing after an evening jog in mid-July, citizens came together to search for the 20-year-old University of Iowa student in hopes of bringing her home safe. But when Tibbetts' body was found in late August, allegedly murdered at the hands of an illegal Mexican immigrant, this underlying unity quickly crumbled as her death became fodder for those promoting a racist agenda. 

In an effort to preserve Mollie's legacy, her father, Rob Tibbetts, wrote an emotional op-ed in the Des Moines Register over the weekend, asking the public to stop politicizing his Mollie's death, as she never would've condoned the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has since infiltrated media coverage of her murder. Rob noted that, while politicians and pundits heeded his family's initial appeal to refrain from using Mollie's murder to further their own agenda, others have ignored this request.

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"They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie's tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed," he wrote. "I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not appropriate Mollie's soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., 'heartless' and 'despicable.' "

"Make no mistake, Mollie was my daughter and my best friend. At her eulogy, I said Mollie was nobody's victim. Nor is she a pawn in others' debate," he added. "She may not be able to speak for herself, but I can and will. Please leave us out of your debate. Allow us to grieve in privacy and with dignity. At long last, show some decency. On behalf of my family and Mollie's memory, I'm imploring you to stop."

Throughout this ordeal, Rob has repeatedly asked himself, "What would Mollie do?" Thus, as inspired by both Mollie's spirit and the life of the late Sen. John McCain, Rob knew he needed to stand up and do something. 

"The person who is accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people," he explained. "To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention."   

"To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology," he added. "That you've been beset by the circumstances of Mollie's death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food."

Rob emphasized that the sins of one man should not represent an entire race. He said that his "blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American" and that, as an American, he lives by one tenet — "to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union."

"Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag," he said. "It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful."

Ultimately, Rob called upon the public to "not lose sight of Mollie" by heeding her lessons, as well as those of McCain and Aretha Franklin, in a nationwide pursuit of humanity, fairness, and courage. As he wrote, the summer-long search for Mollie transcended opinion, race, gender, and geography, so we must "not lose sight of that miracle" either.

"Instead, let's turn against racism in all its ugly manifestations both subtle and overt," he said. "Let's turn toward each other with all the compassion we gave Mollie. Let's listen, not shout. Let's build bridges, not walls. Let's celebrate our diversity rather than argue over our differences. I can tell you, when you've lost your best friend, differences are petty and meaningless."

Cover image: KC McGinnis/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

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