Fox News and other right-wing media are trying to distract people from the ugly reality of a post-Roe America by turning a story about a 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel to another state to obtain a legal abortion into an immigration story by focusing on the reported citizenship status of the suspected rapist. This follows repeated failed efforts by right-wing media to discredit the initial story and deny the rape and abortion ever happened at all.
The Indianapolis Star reported on July 1 that a 10-year-old was forced to travel from her home in Ohio to a clinic in Indiana to receive an abortion. She was unable to receive necessary medical care in her state thanks to trigger laws that went into effect “hours” after the conservative-controlled U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. A week later, President Joe Biden cited this horrific case while signing an executive order aimed at protecting abortion access around the country.
Right-wing media immediately began an intense effort to discredit this case of a Republican abortion ban forcing a child to cross state lines to have an abortion. Right-wing outlets, led by Fox News, claimed the story was “not true,” “not verified,” and in an especially sick Wall Street Journal editorial, “too good to confirm.” Some even questioned whether the victim existed. Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool called the story a “hoax” even after a suspect was arrested. And Fox host Jesse Watters doubled down on downplaying the case, even resorting to demonizing the doctor who provided the necessary medical care to the child.
Right-wing media shifted tactics from denying this ever happened to claiming it’s actually an immigration story on July 13, after The Columbus Dispatch reported that a suspect was arrested and charged after confessing to raping the child at least twice. The Dispatch reported that a local prosecutor said the suspect “is not believed to be in the country legally and there are questions about his identity.” Right-wing media figures immediately seized on that detail, and soon Fox began to shift the narrative from the consequences of GOP abortion bans to immigration policy:
- Fox correspondent Trace Gallagher reported on Watters’ show: “The man who is in jail charged with raping a 10-year-old Ohio girl is 27-year-old Gershon Fuentes, a Guatemalan immigrant who, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, is in this country illegally.” The chyron read, “Illegal charged with rape of 10-year-old.”
- Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt highlighted the man’s immigration status, saying, “A 10-year-old girl was raped and then taken across state lines to get an abortion. This morning we are learning that the suspect was here — here is his picture — illegally.”
- On the same show, Earhardt later highlighted several cases of undocumented Hispanic migrants commiting child sexual abuse in America. Kilmeade responded, “You’re not looking at a bunch of people coming over here because they’re fleeing strife.”
- On America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Bill Hemmer reported on the story, saying, “Officials charge an illegal immigrant with rape in the case of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was taken to Indiana to get an abortion. Immigration authorities say that this man, Gershon Fuentes, is a Guatemalan national. He is here in violation of the law.”
- Fox News contributor David Webb used the case to attack the immigration system, saying, “This is a further extension of the failure to deal with immigration in this country. Ohio became an attractive state over the many years because of lax rules. They now also in Ohio – I don’t care what party you are – need to look at what they are doing about illegal aliens and criminal illegals.”
- Watters cast doubt on the victim’s mother’s immigration status, “The mom is saying that she didn't file charges and that it never happened and her daughter is fine. The question is, do they have the right guy or is the mother covering it up? And what's her immigration status? That, we don’t know.”
- On her nightly program, Laura Ingraham recalled former President Donald Trump’s statements during his first primary, “As President Trump said in 2015, they’re sending their rapists.”
Other right-wing media outlets and figures added extra commentary that sensationalized the importance of the suspect’s immigration status.
Townhall attacked the media’s reporting in their article, “Reuters Had the Most Sanitized Headline About an Illegal Raping a 10-Year-Old Child,” and an article in Red State titled, “The 10-Year Old Ohio Girl Rape Story Turns Even More Horrific,” reads: “An
undocumented illegal alien named Gerson Fuentes has been arrested in connection with the rape of the 10-year-old, who I will coin as, ‘Little Girl Lost.’”
On Twitter, conservatives made even more direct remarks. One America News host Pearson Sharp tweeted, “Illegal third-world invader raped a 10 year old girl, but you won't see women's rights hypocrites calling for more border security.” There were also claims about Democrats supporting sex trafficking, with Dinesh D’Souza writing, “The 10 year old raped by an illegal is the fault of Biden and the Left. They’re the ones who established a cross-border sex trafficking operation in conjunction with the Mexican cartels,” and Ann Coulter writing, “Delighted to see liberals now OPPOSED to child rapists -- even as they haul them in, hand over fist, through mass third world immigration.”
On OAN, host Dan Ball also referenced Trump launching his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” in his discussion of the abortion story. OAN host Kara McKinney continued to spread doubt that the abortion story was real, even as she highlighted reporting about the suspect’s immigration status. Newsmax host Greg Kelly aired a segment on the story with an on-air graphic calling it “the consequences of Joe’s border policies,” even though the suspect has reportedly been in the U.S. for at least seven years. And on Newsmax’s American Agenda, the host and a correspondent discussed “the dangers of having such an open border” after reporting details about the story.