The father of slain Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts has penned an emotional op-ed in which he implores politicians not to drag his daughter's name into the immigration debate.
In the gut-wrenching column in Saturday's Des Moines Register, a still-grieving Rob Tibbetts explains that in the wake of his daughter's murder (allegedly at the hands of a farm worker originally from Mexico), the tragedy was made into a political talking point.
At the family's request, Tibbetts says many politicians stopped using Mollie's name. Others, he laments, did not.
"They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed," Tibbetts writes. "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."
Among those politicians who've used Mollie's name is President Trump, who posted a video of his reaction to Twitter in the days after her body was found in a cornfield.
“Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman, is now permanently separated from her family,” he said before invoking the most notable, and controversial, promise of his 2016 campaign. "We need the wall."
Mollie's family spoke out following the statement from the president, as well as from his son and others.
However, Tibbetts' message makes clear their pleas are not just for the sake of the family, but also as an honor to Mollie's enduring memory.
"The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., 'heartless' and 'despicable,'" Tibbetts writes. "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."
Tibbetts goes on to describe his own stepdaughter, "whom Mollie loved so dearly," as Latina before apologizing to them and their community on behalf of the family.
"To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology," he writes. "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."
Like the Trumps, politicians including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, and others have suggested in the wake of Mollie's death that her murder was preventable based on reports that her alleged killer, Cristhian Rivera, is an undocumented immigrant.
Tibbetts appears to chastise them all.
"To knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag. It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul," he writes. "It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful."