The father of Mollie Tibbets, a college student who was found dead weeks after disappearing, has spoken out against Donald Trump Jr. and other politicians who are trying to use his daughter’s death to push their own racist agendas.
In an opinion piece for the Des Moines Register published on Saturday, Rob Tibbetts spoke out against “politicians and pundits” who have “used Mollie’s death” as a talking point in ongoing debates about immigration in America, despite his family’s emphatic appeals.
“They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed,” he wrote. “The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., ‘heartless’ and ‘despicable.’ ”
A day earlier, Don Jr. had published his own opinion piece in the same publication, where he argued that many Democrat politicians had a “heartless” and “despicable” response to Mollie’s murder by asking that people focus “on the ‘real problems’ of our immigration system, such as the separation of families at our border.”
“At her eulogy, I said Mollie was nobody’s victim. Nor is she a pawn in others’ debate. She may not be able to speak for herself, but I can and will. Please leave us out of your debate,” Rob wrote. “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.”
“To suggest otherwise is a lie,” he wrote, before sharing that his stepdaughter, whom “Mollie loved so dearly,” is Latina, as are her children.
Rob added: “To knowingly foment discord amount 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. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful.”
In an interview with the Register, which was also published on Saturday, Rob explained that he was inspired to write his own opinion piece after reading what the president’s son had written.
RELATED VIDEO: Man Accused in Murder of Mollie Tibbetts Appears in Court
Following news that Mollie had died, President Donald Trump also invoked the killing in starkly electoral language.
“You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman,” he said at a rally. “Should’ve never happened. … The laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting it changed, but we have to get more Republicans.”
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Trump spoke even more directly, referencing his longstanding pledge to erect a southern border wall: “We need the wall. We need our immigration laws changed. We need Republicans to do it, because the Democrats aren’t going to do it.”
Despite Trump’s frequent remarks, statistics cited by the Pew Research Center show immigrants do not commit crimes more often than native-born Americans.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old psychology student at the University of Iowa, was last seen alive the night of July 18, on her regular evening run around her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.
Rivera made his initial court appearance on Wednesday and is set to return on Aug. 31. He remains in custody in lieu of $5 million bond.
He has not entered a plea but his attorney, Allan Richards, has reiterated that he is innocent until proven guilty and that no evidence has yet been presented in court.
“He was just part of the community, an all-American boy working really hard,” Richards previously told PEOPLE of Rivera. “Whether or not there was something that happened that was very outrageous, that is a different matter. I have seen no evidence on that.”