How Politics Took Over the Killing of Mollie Tibbetts

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The din of outrage coming from all sides — on the left, accusations of callous exploitation and fearmongering; on the right, criticisms that political correctness is trumping public safety — underlines the growing disparity between those who largely trust Mr. Trump’s diagnoses of the country’s problems and believe he and Republicans should be given more time to fix them, and those who are disgusted with his leadership and want to throw him and his party out of power.

“She was killed by a person who is exactly what Trump has been warning about,” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, said on Fox News, bringing to mind Mr. Trump’s first speech as a presidential candidate in 2015, in which he blamed Mexico for sending criminals and rapists across the southern border. “The left has to bear the burden of being the party that is tolerating Americans being killed by people who are here illegally,” he added.

Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who has been one of the president’s biggest defenders on issues of immigration, tweeted, “Mollie would be alive if our government had taken immigration enforcement seriously years ago.”

The news of the break in the Tibbetts case on Monday was a tragic ending to her disappearance a month ago. But the timing, as far as Mr. Trump and his allies were concerned, could not have been better. Word that an immigrant had been charged in her death came the same afternoon that Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer implicated him in a scheme to pay off alleged paramours and his former campaign manager was found guilty of eight counts of financial fraud.

The stories, and the different ways they were covered, played to the themes that Mr. Trump returns to frequently: illegal immigration and the crime and economic devastation he says it wreaks; a corrupted, one-sided justice system that he says punishes him and his allies but no one else; and a political system controlled by elites in both parties who he believes never accepted his victory.

Fox News set the tone for how prominently the Tibbetts story would feature in the media universe the president and his supporters follow most closely. As other networks covered the president’s growing legal exposure, Fox alone broke in with news of Ms. Tibbetts’s death. Its coverage of her disappearance, and of the discovery of her body, has been exhaustive, with correspondents on the scene in Iowa featuring in multiple segments every hour. On Wednesday night, the host who was filling in for Laura Ingraham opened the program by boasting, “Fox News is the only network fully covering the case.”

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