Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Laken Riley murder: Media outlets focus on lone joggers, downplay suspected killer’s immigration status

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The tragic murder of Laken Riley allegedly at the hands of a illegal immigrant has generated extensive media attention that as times taken pains to avoid the link to the border crisis. 

Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at the Augusta Medical College’s campus in Athens, was found dead on the University of Georgia campus Thursday after her roommate reported to authorities that she had not returned home from her morning run. 

Police have charged Jose Antonio Ibarra with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since confirmed that Ibarra entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 and had previously been arrested in New York City but some news organizations have referred to him simply as an “Athens resident” while burying his immigration status in their reports.

AP REPORT ON LAKEN RILEY MURDER OMITS SUSPECT’S IMMIGRATION STATUS, FOCUSES ON DANGERS OF WOMEN JOGGING ALONE

OutKick columnist Mary Katharine Ham, who ran on the same trail when she attended the University of Georgia, believes the media should tell the truth about what transpired. 

“The media needs to talk about the facts of the case, and many sources are, sort of, just leaving out that this person was in the country illegally and did have arrests already on the books,” Ham told Bill Hemmer on “America’s Newsroom.”

“He crossed illegally, he then says he wants to apply for asylum, he’s in New York, he’s arrested, partly for endangering a child, and then he’s released, because in New York you’re released very quickly and nothing gets to ICE,” she continued. “People have to acknowledge, particularly media whose job it is to use the facts, acknowledge that when you’re letting millions and millions of people in… it doesn’t mean that all of those people are going to commit violent crimes, but it does mean that some of them will.” 

The Associated Press was ridiculed by conservatives over the weekend for appearing to categorize the murder more about the “fears of solo female athletes” rather than illegal immigration and weak crime laws. The AP published an article on Saturday headlined, “The killing of a nursing student out for a run highlights the fears of solo female athletes,” that failed to mention Ibarra’s immigration or criminal record and instead focused on how Riley was murdered while jogging by herself.

ICE CONFIRMS GEORGIA STUDENT MURDER SUSPECT ENTERED US ILLEGALLY, WAS PREVIOUSLY ARRESTED IN NYC

Ham said the “wild” AP story left her baffled that the suspect’s immigration status wasn’t mentioned. 

“I read the whole thing, first of all, this is a real fear, right? I used to run that path and when I run alone, I think about these things, there is no attempt to contextualize statistics or anything in that piece that might be helpful to female runners,” she said.

“What they do is, they take a sample size of two tragic murders, Laken Riley and Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa a couple of years ago in 2018, and then they don’t mention that either one of them – the thread that actually connects those two, is that both suspects, one serving a life sentence, were illegal immigrants,” Ham said. “Perhaps you’re missing the story because you’re trying to turn it into another story because you don’t want to deal with the fact that this reflects badly on the policies that are in place during this administration.” 

CNN CLAIMS ‘LITTLE EVIDENCE’ TO CONNECT CRIME TO BORDER CRISIS IN GEORGIA STUDENT MURDER REPORT

Fellow Outkick writer Ian Miller wrote, “It really is jaw-dropping how hard the media will work to avoid mentioning any aspect of a story that makes their political party or progressive ideology look bad.” 

Scripps News published a story Sunday headlined, “Murder of Georgia student out for a run renews female joggers’ fears,” while ABC News’ “Good Morning America” also highlighted the safety concerns of running alone. ABC and other networks did highlight the suspect’s illegal immigration status in other reports.

CNN discounted any connection between the suspect’s immigration status and crime in a Monday report that relayed how Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had called on President Biden to enforce border security and protect Americans following the shocking murder case. 

“Ibarra’s status as an undocumented Venezuelan migrant is now being touted by several state and national GOP leaders to support their calls for tighter border security – though there is little evidence indicating a connection between immigration and crime,” CNN reported.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took a similar approach when promoting coverage of the murder on social media.  

“Top Georgia Republicans quickly tied the killing of a student on the University of Georgia campus to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, decrying what they see as lax border controls after a suspect from Venezuela was charged with murder,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted on X. 

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark said “the evidence is robust” against Ibarra. 

“The press has been dragged kicking and screaming into this and other related stories because there is no spinning Biden out of his self-inflicted border disaster,” Media Research Center analyst Jorge Bonilla told Fox News Digital. “So you get stories like the AP’s steaming pile of nonsense and related ‘Athens resident’ coverage. But make no mistake. Omission of these stories, or of their most uncomfortable details, are complicity with both Biden’s willful destruction of the border and with the havoc it has wreaked upon our cities.”

Fox News Digital’s Lindsay Kornick, Brooke Singman, David Rutz and Kristine Parks contributed to this report. 

OutKick and Fox News share common ownership. 

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