Conservatives, Right-Wing Media Left Flailing After Arrest Confirms Child Rape Story

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) addresses voters in South Bend, Indiana on April 5, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) announced on Fox News Wednesday night that he was going to investigate Caitlin Bernard, the doctor who provided abortion care for a 10-year-old rape victim who had traveled from Ohio, where abortion is banned after six weeks with no exceptions, to have the procedure in Indiana.

The threats Rokita made in the meandering interview with Fox News’ Jesse Watters are just one layer of conservatives’ and right-wing media’s freakout and subsequent botched handling of a story about the rape of a 10-year-old child who had an abortion. The right’s gasket-blowing over the story has exploded further in the last two days, with commentators and politicians alike attempting to poke holes in the narrative in order to push a broader anti-abortion message.

But since a man has now been arrested and criminally charged for the rape, conservatives have scrambled to respond to scrutiny. And to get their story straight.

The story about the 10-year-old child was first reported by the Indianapolis Star earlier this month. The report set off a firestorm, with observers highlighting the shocking event as a particularly egregious consequence of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade.

Conservatives, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R), and the right-wing media initially tried to discredit the story, with Yost claiming during a Fox News appearance earlier this week that there was “not a whisper anywhere” among state law enforcement of a police report being filed for the child.

Yost continued to sow doubt about the account on Tuesday, telling USA Today that “[e]very day that goes by the more likely that this is a fabrication.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) made a similar attempt, retweeting Yost’s claims and adding “Another lie. Anyone surprised?”

And the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board put out an op-ed headlined “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm” that argued it was an “unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can’t be confirmed.”

However, they were all forced to backtrack after the Columbus Dispatch reported on Wednesday that a man named Gerson Fuentes had been arrested and charged in the case the previous day.

Jeffrey Huhn, a detective at the Columbus Police Department, testified at Fuentes’ arraignment on Wednesday that Franklin County Children Services had informed the police of the child’s pregnancy after her mother reported it on June 22.

Yost initially responded to news of the arrest with just one sentence: “We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.”

Later on, per the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio attorney general offered a little more, saying he was “absolutely delighted that this monster has been taken off the street. If convicted, he should spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Jordan quietly deleted his tweet, which had been retweeted by the House Judiciary GOP acccount, without following up with a correction.

And the Wall Street Journal added a lengthy editor’s note to the editorial and issued a separate mea culpa noting Fuentes’ arrest.

The interview between Watters and Rokita on Wednesday night was just another example of conservatives scrambling to respond to the arrest. The discussion was filled with befuddling pivots to topics like socialism and “illegal immigration issues” (because Fuentes, the man who has been charged with raping the child, is believed to be an undocumented immigrant, although that has not been confirmed).

But the GOP attorney general made it known what he believes the real issue at hand is: The doctor.

“Then we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report,” he said, responding to Watters leading introduction to the interview where the Fox host claimed the doctor “has a history of failing to report child abuse cases.” (As we noted above, the rape was reported by the mother last month and to authorities by child protective services in Ohio.)

“So we’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure if she failed to report. And in Indiana it’s a crime to intentionally not report,” Rokita said.

Watters’ program then flashed a photo of Bernard, cementing the subject of the distraction technique into the minds, and eyes, of viewers.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: