Conservatives Called an Ohio Rape Case Fake News. Now an Arrest Has Been Made
An arrest has been made in the case of a 10-year-old girl who sought an abortion in Indiana after services were allegedly denied to her in Ohio. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Gershon Fuentes, age 27, was arrested on Tuesday. Law enforcement officials say Fuentes confessed to raping the child — whose identity has not been released to preserve her privacy — on at least two occasions, and has been charged with rape.
In the weeks leading up to the arrest, prominent right-wing pundits and government officials attempted to discredit the story as a liberal pro-abortion fantasy. The narrative exploded after a July 5 viral Twitter thread by Megan Fox, a writer at right-wing outfit PJ Media, claiming the “TIMING of this horrific story is too on the nose,” and questioning why sources were unwilling to publicly disclose sensitive information regarding the rape of a child.
Prominent media outlets, both fringe and mainstream, jumped at the emerging narrative. After President Joe Biden alluded to the case in a speech last Friday, The Wall Street Journal called the story “fanciful” under the headline “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm.”
Re the rape case of the 10-year-old Ohio girl:
Left: WSJ Edit Page yesterday calls it a 'fanciful tale'
Right: Columbus Dispatch today reports arrest of suspect pic.twitter.com/jMCKWxx8VK
— Bill Grueskin (@BGrueskin) July 13, 2022
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler also criticized the widespread coverage the story received and questioned if the Indianapolis Star had done appropriate diligence in confirming the existence of the girl. “An abortion by a 10-year-old is pretty rare,” Kessler wrote in his fact-check of the story.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted last Friday that the story “was fake to begin with. Literal #FakeNews from the liberal media,” after being questioned about it by CNN’s Dana Bash. Rolling Stone reached out to Governor Noem’s office, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A week ago, @DanaBashCNN tried to trap me with a story about a 10-year old girl who got an abortion. I pointed out that nobody was asking about the pervert who raped that child.
Now it looks like the story was fake to begin with. Literal #FakeNews from the liberal media. https://t.co/43Ccz63iPy
— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) July 9, 2022
The rape case drew international attention in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which rendered abortion in Ohio illegal past the point of fetal heartbeat detection, around six weeks. According to the Dispatch, law enforcement was made aware of the pregnancy on June 22 through a referral from Franklin County Children Services. Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified at Fuentes’s arraignment that DNA samples confirmed that Fuentes was the contributing party to the pregnancy.
Doubt about the story continued to spread throughout the Fox News ecosystem after Biden’s speech on Friday. On Monday, host Jesse Watters speculated that “the mainstream media and president of the United States [were] seizing on another hoax.” On Tuesday, Fox News host Emily Compagno claimed it was “deeply offensive” that the media would “make up a fake [victim]” when there are already many real-world victims of sexual violence.
Fox News host Emily Compagno, yesterday, on the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who had to go to Indiana for an abortion:
"What I find so deeply offensive, they had to make up a fake one!"
Meanwhile, the alleged rapist was just arrested and charged.https://t.co/ZD07i4ls0E pic.twitter.com/JtwZ6XyELQ
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 13, 2022
Ohio Republican Attorney General, Dave Yost, appeared on Fox News on Monday to say there was “not a damn scintilla of evidence” that the case was real, and attempted to shame the Star for running “this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) agreed, tweeting that the story was a “lie.” He deleted the tweet after the arrest was made on Wednesday, and wrote that Fuentes should be punished “to the fullest extent of the law.” Yost made a similar pivot. “My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” he said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone after news of the arrest broke. “I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street. Justice must be served and BCI stands ready to support law enforcement across Ohio putting these criminals behind bars.”
BREAKING: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says there is "not a whisper" that a 10-year-old child was raped and impregnated, there has been no request for crime lab results, and that Ohio's heartbeat law would have allowed such a young girl to get an abortion in the state. pic.twitter.com/oIhJzNiq52
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) July 11, 2022
Prominent conservative pundits and social media accounts continued to pile onto the narrative ahead of the arrest on Wednesday. National Review writer Michael Brendan Dougherty sarcastically asked if anyone had caught the perpetrator, or if they were “making up a fictive abortion and a fictive rape a way of drawing attention to the way abortion has been used to cover up statutory rape for all these years?” Podcast host Gary Callahan tweeted that he “sure [hopes] they catch the imaginary rapist who impregnated the imaginary 10 year old girl who had to go to Indiana for an imaginary abortion.” Prominent twitter accounts including “LibsOfTikTok” and “The Bradford File” deemed also the story fake.
Following the news that the man allegedly responsible for the assault has been arrested and provided law enforcement with a confession, some who doubted the veracity of the story are attempting to pivot away from casting doubt on the veracity of the reports. They’re now attempting to move public attention onto the alleged undocumented status of the alleged perpetrator.
“Illegal alien arrested for raping 10-year-old Ohio girl,” wrote right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. “Undocumented immigrants raping 10 year old girls is probably not the narrative they want on this so expect that inconvenient fact to be dropped,” added conservative commentator Stephen Miller.
Megan Fox, the right-wing writer whose Twitter thread raising doubt about the story went viral, responded to the news on Wednesday by taking credit for the arrest. “Would this arrest have happened if no one asked questions about the shoddy reporting of this heinous act?” she wrote. “I’m glad someone was arrested.”