Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Want to know the facts? Don’t listen to Katie Britt

CW File

Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, a former UA SGA president, was entrusted with giving the Republican response to President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address. And on March 7, she betrayed that trust.

Britt claimed that Biden is “making us a punchline on the world stage” while she was busy making the state of Alabama into a punchline herself.

In addition to her much-mocked delivery (just see Scarlett Johansson’s re-creation for “Saturday Night Live”), Britt shamelessly twisted the facts to shock American families with falsehoods while hastily papering over America’s rich but painful history.

Britt discussed the death of Laken Riley, an Augusta University student who was allegedly killed at the University of Georgia in February by a man living in the country illegally, and related it to a lengthy anecdote about a conversation with a victim of sex trafficking. She then concluded that anecdote with, “This is the United States of America, and it’s past time we start acting like it.”

Jonathan Katz, a former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press and the author of the Substack newsletter The Racket, quickly discovered that Britt had disguised key facts about her horrific sex trafficking story. The story had not taken place in the United States as she had intimated, or during Biden’s presidency, or even Trump’s or Obama’s, but in Mexico in the early aughts.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Britt’s campaign admitted as much. Later, in an interview with CNN, the woman whose real story was misrepresented and abused for political gain said Britt “should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude.”

Of course, the politicization of senseless tragedy without any respect for the facts is not a tactic employed only by Alabama’s newest senator.

UA Young Americans for Freedom recently hosted a vigil for Riley, with the title “Sanctuaries Aren’t Safe.” Athens, Georgia, where Riley was killed, is not a sanctuary city and never has been (sanctuary cities are illegal under Georgia state law).

This whole scare around illegal immigration and crime has been built on shaky, if not imaginary, foundations.

The homicide rate in Alabama is far higher than in New York and Los Angeles, “liberal” cities conservatives so frequently lambast — a fact that Alabama’s other senator, Tommy Tuberville, has recently openly denied. And according to recent research, sanctuary policies “have no effect on crime rates.”

One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looking at arrest data from Texas found that “US-born citizens are over 2 times more likely [than undocumented immigrants] to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes.”

On top of the blatant falsehoods, Britt centered much of her rhetoric around more sinister, underhanded mischaracterizations of American history that conveniently ignore the many struggles that our nation has faced and continues to face.

Britt aggrandized “pioneers who tamed the wild,” an obvious dog whistle glorifying the colonization of a land already populated by Indigenous Americans before Europeans “discovered” it, and characterizing those people as savage, uncivilized, and less than human.

Britt also referenced how Americans are “steeped in the blood of patriots who overthrew the most powerful empire in the world” — failing to mention the many imperial endeavors that this nation has since perpetrated in places like Cuba, the Philippines and across the Middle East.

And not unexpectedly, she also glorifies modern America, calling us the “liberators of an oppressed Europe.” Is the senator unaware of our continued funding of Israel’s unlawful assault on civilians in Gaza, the weapons we supply Saudi Arabia in its ongoing perpetration of a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, or the countless other examples of the United States aiding and abetting oppression on the global stage? Or, perhaps, is it only the oppression of Europeans that concerns politicians like Britt?

Conservatives like Britt thrive on reframing history to center white Western Christians as heroes and purposefully omitting the important adversities faced by people of color. 

This is why they expend so much effort attacking the educational initiatives like critical race theory or diversity, equity and inclusion that attempt to expose these romanticized narratives for what they really are: white supremacist apologia and propaganda fueled by a desire to maintain an imbalanced status quo. 

As Britt makes a play for a national platform and perhaps the vice presidency, with her campaign coaching conservatives to refer to her as “America’s mom” and “Reaganesque,” she has  consistently failed to speak up for Alabamians in any specific way.

Even her fellow Republican Sens. JD Vance and Josh Hawley made it to the United Auto Workers picket lines last year. But has Britt even said a word while Gov. Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Ellen McNair repeatedly lie about the Alabamian-led unionization efforts at Hyundai and Mercedes? No, she has not.

Alabama’s neighbor Mississippi appears to be about to expand Medicaid, providing federally subsidized health care to over a hundred thousand people. Has Britt used her newfound national platform to advocate for the Medicaid expansion that would save Alabamian lives? No, she has not.

Britt’s speech on March 7 may have been exciting, thanks in no small part to her casual relationship with the truth, but at its best politics isn’t exciting. It’s politicians listening to their constituents, like auto workers struggling to unionize and poor families left without health care, and doing their best to help.

Britt might have enjoyed her time in the spotlight, but she should care less about Biden’s State of the Union and more about the state of Alabama.

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