Q&A – The Gabby Petito Case And “Missing White Woman Syndrome”

Gabby Petito's Hometown Of Blue Point, Long Island Mourns Her Death

Photo: Getty Images

Today’s entry: Brian, I’d like to hear your take on the so-called missing white woman syndrome. I believe you’ve said similar things in the past without characterizing it that way. Do you think it’s true? If so, do you feel conflicted having spent a lot of time on the story? 

Bottom Line: Yes, I think it’s true. No, I don’t feel conflicted. I’m appreciative of you having introduced this topic because it’s a valuable conversation to be having while so much attention is being paid to the Gabby Petito case. While I’ve never used the characterization of “missing white woman syndrome”, I have very specifically spoken to this concern previously in the context of human trafficking. In recent years, I’d most passionately explained this dynamic during the Robert Kraft/Orchids of Asia Day Spa scandal from a couple of years ago. 

If you’re familiar with my work on this topic over the years, you know that human trafficking is one I’m most passionate about and most disturbed regarding the lack of attention it receives. Most recently, during the investigative period of the Orchid's Day Spa case involving Robert Kraft and others, I’d hoped we’d see the appropriate attention focused on the issues of human trafficking in the US and see harsh accountability for those who pay for the “work” of those trafficked. Instead, it appears it’ll be the latest example of how to use loopholes in the legal system to get away with sex trafficking. Meanwhile, the problem continues to exacerbate and now we’ve learned a new disturbing wrinkle from the US State Department.

The United States is one of the top five countries for human trafficking in the world. How bad is the problem today? 300,000 children are at risk of being human trafficked in the US and 199,000 is the number of children lost to human trafficking in the US every year.

All of those points remain generally true today. Now Gabby wasn’t trafficked, she was murdered, though we didn’t know that to be the case when the news media first picked up the story, the media dynamic remains true from a coverage perspective. She fit the right “profile” from a media perspective to generate enormous interest. For anyone who may disagree, when was the last time you recall national attention by news media at all levels for days on end to a missing person’s case involving someone of minority descent? 

I’m not conflicted regarding the way I’ve covered the story. The content I share with you is a mix of what you want and what I think is important for you to know. This Q&A is a perfect example. Generally, they’re not in conflict with one another. There’s been enormous interest in the Gabby Petito case, and whether it’s derived from what some call “missing white woman syndrome” or not, there’s a desire for justice in this case. Also, it’s not taken away from my work on other important stories over the past couple of weeks.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

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