Missing Women In America | Crooked Media
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September 23, 2021
What A Day
Missing Women In America

In This Episode

  • In addition to Gabrielle Petito’s tragic murder, we discuss the horrific rates of people of color who’ve gone missing in America. For example in Wyoming, where Petito’s body was found, 710 Indigenous people went missing between 2011 and 2020, and over half of them were women.
  • In COVID news, President Biden pledged to donate 500 million vaccine doses to lower income countries. The FDA also authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine for people 65 and older and for those at risk of severe disease.
  • And in headlines: nearly 1,000 Haitian migrants in Del Rio, TX, were released into the United States, bipartisan Congressional negotiations on a sweeping police reform bill broke down, and Trump filed a lawsuit against his niece and reporters at The New York Times.


Show Notes:

Wyoming Department of Victim Services: “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People” – https://wysac.uwyo.edu/wysac/reports/View/7713

Associated Press: “#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?” – https://bit.ly/3i0H5UB

NPR: “With A Spotlight On Gabby Petito, The Parents Of 2 Missing Black Men Call For Action” – https://n.pr/3zCPt2yBlack and Missing – https://blackandmissinginc.com/

NY Times: “Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology” – https://nyti.ms/39rlGzn





Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, September 23rd. I’m Gideon Resnick


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, reminding grocery stores we will ignore any pumpkin products on the shelves until mid-October at the earliest.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, go ahead and stock that pumpkin rooibos tea, but I will refuse to even look at it.


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, keep it simple. We don’t want to go into fall. OK? I think that’s what it is. On today’s show, President Biden pledges to get millions more COVID vaccine doses to the rest of the world. Plus, if you need Halloween costume ideas, how about spending 85 bucks to look like Bernie at the inauguration?


Gideon Resnick: Sure. But first, we wanted to put a spotlight on the many people who have gone missing in America. And it is a widespread problem that goes far beyond the case of Gabrielle Petito.


Tre’vell Anderson: Very much so. And if you happen to not know what we’re talking about, here are a few quick details. Gabrielle Petito, a 22-year old white woman, and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, left New York back in July for what was supposed to be a four-month long cross-country trip. Now, some things went down, apparently, during their trip because Gabrielle’s fiancé returned to his Florida home solo on September 1st. Gabrielle was reported as missing by her family 10 days later. Ultimately, the FBI found Gabrielle’s remains in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest earlier this week. A search for the fiancé who has now disappeared is still in progress.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and there’s been a lot of press focus on this story. And the Internet itself has pitched in with some social media sleuthing here, too. And while this situation is terribly tragic, a number of advocates have pointed out that many other people, particularly people of color whose missing persons cases, don’t get a focus on primetime cable news, or what felt like wall-to-wall coverage from the New York Times.


Tre’vell Anderson: Exactly. Here’s Lynette Grey Bull, director of the nonprofit Not Our Native Daughters, in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid, putting a spotlight on Indigenous missing persons.


[clip of Joy-Ann Reid] You know, if you don’t have blond hair and blue eyes, I mean, our story is do not make it to the six o’clock news. We barely may get a story into the paper. However, I just think it takes everybody coming to the table, addressing the issue, being accountable, and making sure that when somebody goes missing or murdered in our community, that it’s equally presented and have a sense of urgency.


Tre’vell Anderson: So Gideon, the late, legendary journalist Gwen Ifill actually coined this term about 20 years ago, “missing white woman syndrome” to describe the ways our culture and media specifically gets activated when the victim is a white woman, but doesn’t necessarily keep that same energy for folks from other communities. The fact of the matter is that we seem to care less when the person who goes missing is of color, even though we as folks of color go missing at higher rates.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and to that point, let’s actually talk about some of what we know here.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So let’s start with the missing Indigenous folks, because the rates are tragic. Specifically in Wyoming where Gabrielle’s body was found, 710 Indigenous people went missing between 2011 and 2020. Over half of them were women. This is according to a study done by the University of Wyoming, which found that while half of those missing persons were found within a week, almost a quarter of them went missing for a month or longer. Comparatively, only 11% of white people remain missing for that long. The study, which we can link to in our show notes, also found that only 18% of the Indigenous women who were reported missing received media coverage.


Gideon Resnick: Wow. Yeah. And so that’s just Wyoming. What about the U.S. overall and do we have a sense of why this is the case?


Tre’vell Anderson: So the U.S. Department of the Interior said earlier this year that there were roughly 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons in the National Crime Information Center database. This number, though, does not include instances that were not documented by authorities. And considering study after study notes the ways folks of color are more often deemed the cause for or perpetrators of violence and crime, or those studies that note the way certain authoritative figures are less likely to believe folks of color, advocates say many more Indigenous families are dealing with missing persons than these stats let on. As for why, that’s unfortunately hard to say. A 2018 AP story we can link to says that there hasn’t been a government database tracking these cases so it’s hard to find a common thread. But the article quotes one University of Kansas professor who suggests that some of these people might have been the victims of sexual violence. This is so much of an issue, though, that the interior secretary, Deb Haaland, announced in April the creation of a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs office to help put the, quote, “full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases.”


Gideon Resnick: And hopefully that has positive results there. And there’s also been over the last few years, a lot of discourse about the rates of missing Black people as well, especially women and girls.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, advocates like Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the organization Black and Missing, have called for the media, law enforcement agencies, and everyday people to be as concerned about missing Black folks as they are with Gabrielle Petito. And two such people whose families are searching for their loved ones right now are Jelani Day, a 25-year old Illinois State University graduate student who went missing last month, and Daniel Robinson, a 24-year old Arizona geologist who went missing back in June. In the show notes, we’re going to link to an NPR story about both of them, as well as Black and Missing’s website, which has resources for folks in search of their family members. All right, Gideon, shifting gears to the pandemic. Yesterday, President Biden led a virtual summit on it in the midst of the ongoing meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. And he made this pledge:


[clip of President Biden] The United States is buying another half billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low and middle-income countries around the world. This is another half billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year. And that brings our total commitment to donat—of donated vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated.


Tre’vell Anderson: We previewed that such an announcement could be on the way, but Gideon, what more came out of this address.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this is all part of a plan to vaccinate 70% of the global population by next September, although we should note here that this purchase is just a tiny fraction of what it’s going to take to actually do that. But the point that Biden was really trying to drive home at this summit was that it was going to take a collective global effort to end the global pandemic. He also announced a new partnership with the EU on upping global vaccinations, with the E.U. committing to donating around 500 million doses itself to lower income countries.


Tre’vell Anderson: Plus, there’s some news about helping other countries make their own vaccines?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this has always been a big part of the discussion. So there are also funding commitments from the US for manufacturing facilities and then the eventual administration of shots. Specifically, a partnership with India, Japan and Australia that Biden said, quote, “is on track to produce at least one billion vaccine doses in India to boost the global supply by the end of 2022.” Now he keeps saying 2022. We keep saying 2022 because he is saying it, and one of the questions that has really come up is what can be done now, not actually in 2022. And that’s one caveat of this new Biden plan for those Pfizer doses, which is pretty frustrating to some activists. So only 300 million of the 1.1 billion promised doses overall are set to be shipped out this year. So there are a lot more problems to solve in the immediate future. And time really is a factor here. So according to the AP, the World Health Organization said that only 15% of promised donations of vaccines from wealthier countries have actually been delivered thus far.


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s disappointing. One part of the vast disparities in vaccine access and vaccinations globally is the role of wealthier countries, but another is pharmaceutical companies who make them. So what’s the update there?


Gideon Resnick: The White House reiterated support for waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. And basically the underpinning of that argument in theory is give even more countries the opportunity to make vaccines instead of relying on just a few who can buy them. And there’s this really interesting New York Times story that we can link to that dives in more on the pressure that companies like Moderna and Pfizer are facing. So a group of drug makers and vaccine manufacturers is reportedly getting ready to ask the Biden administration to really pressure these companies a lot more aggressively for things like licenses to intellectual property and technology that’s used in manufacturing of vaccines. So Pfizer only agreed to sell the doses that the US would donate overseas, but not to actually license the technology. And then with Moderna, apparently both the administration and the World Health Organization have had trouble in talks with Moderna. And so one of the responses that we hear from executives of these companies is that the mRNA technology and the know-how of it is so complex that it actually wouldn’t be expedient to try to set it up in other parts of the world. But again, it is very much worth mentioning that there are enormous financial incentives for these companies here, not just for the COVID-19 vaccines, but for other mRNA vaccines they have in development.


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, there was some news about booster shots for people in the U.S. yesterday. What are they telling us?


Gideon Resnick: OK, two other very quick things before we move on here. The FDA did, in fact, authorize a Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine for people 65 and older and those who are at risk of severe disease, including because of where they might work. Advisers to the CDC are going to continue to meet today to basically decide on who is going to get this and when. And then one other thing that you may or may not have seen: Johnson & Johnson announced earlier this week that a second dose of its vaccine that is given two months after the first was 94% effective against infection, any infection at all, in trials. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk to Dr. Abdul El-Sayed more in depth about the J&J vaccine. More on all of that soon, but that is the latest for now.


It is Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s Temp check, we are getting an early start on Halloween planning: a zoomer-friendly boutique that sells some of the largest platform shoes the mind can possibly imagine called “Dolls Kill” is getting attention for its $85 sexy Bernie Sanders costume. The look is being sold online as the “Once Again Asking Costume Set” in reference to a popular Bernie meme. And it includes mittens, a gray jacket and a blue disposable face masks so customers can channel Bernie on Inauguration Day. If you have forgotten, first of all, you can be forgiven, that was the day that he crossed his mittened hands over his lap, appears to be really cold, and unwittingly produced an image that was soon seen by every person with a smartphone or computer. So, Tre’vell, what is your take on this costume overall, and are there other figures from 2021 who you would rather spend $85 to imitate?


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know about the $85 price tag on literally any costume. I’m not someone who really gets, you know, up in it for for Halloween like that. But, you know, in terms of costumes, you know, I would do, I would pay a little money for like the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head last year. I’d do that one, that seems fun. Or Kamala Harris, “We did it, Joe.” Like, she’s got on like sweat pants. The key, though there is the wig. I need like a wig that’s like pulled back in a ponytail like she had at that time. Maybe that’s worth $85. But what about, what about for you?


Gideon Resnick: I’m fascinated in the Mike Pence situation, who is the fly and who is the hair and how do you imagine portraying that to the public? [laughs]


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, listen, I would be the fly and then I would just have this like huge fake like white wig like attached to me or something like that.


Gideon Resnick: OK.


Tre’vell Anderson: And then so like the head of Mike Pence is imaginary.


Gideon Resnick: OK, OK, I can follow that. And in fact, I love it now. $85 dollars, yeah, is, is a bit of an impediment. I agree. I think that there could be a good group costume that is the Suez Canal situation, where somebody represents the boat and somebody represents the canal. Perhaps it’ll take three people and two will be on the respective sides of the canal, and one person will be carried horizontally through various parties to represent the boat blocking it.


Tre’vell Anderson: I see it. I see the vision. OK. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: I don’t know if any of that made sense to anyone who was listening, but I hope it did. I hope that you come up with something as inventive. And just like that, we have checked our temps. Pay your money for your costume that you feel is appropriate to you I guess, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Nearly 1,000 Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, were released into the United States in the past week. More than 14,000 of them have arrived at the southern border to seek asylum and had set up a makeshift camp under a bridge. U.S. officials reportedly set those migrants free and gave them notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days in an effort to cut processing time for Border Patrol agents. The releases come despite the Biden administration publicly warning that the thousands already in that migrant camp face immediate expulsion back to Haiti. So far, roughly 1,000 people have already been deported, with that number only increasing. Meanwhile, the quality of life at the encampment is horrific. Here is what Wade McMullen, an attorney at a nonprofit human rights organization, had to say about the current conditions there:


[clip of Wade McMullen] People are sleeping on the dirt in a makeshift shelter. People are having to cross back into Mexico to purchase food and bring it back to the camps for people that are hungry. It’s a terrifying situation for a lot of people down there right now.


Gideon Resnick: Now, out of fear of deportation and those very conditions, some migrants are crossing back into Mexico permanently to no longer try to seek asylum in the U.S..


Tre’vell Anderson: Important updates on two major trials we’ve been following. Prosecutors in R. Kelly’s sex trafficking trial delivered their closing statements yesterday. Dozens of witnesses, including several victims, gave testimony over the course of six weeks, supporting allegations that Kelly used former employees to recruit underage kids and young women to groom and sexually exploit. Before closing arguments began, Kelly told the judge that he would not take the witness stand, effectively avoiding what would have been a rightfully scalding cross-examination.


Gideon Resnick: It’s true.


Tre’vell Anderson: After a ruling is reached in this trial, Kelly faces another criminal case in Chicago. And circling back to a different high-profile case, the fraud trial of entrepreneur and former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty. Former Defense Secretary and Theranos board member Jim Mattis took the stand yesterday to say that he wasn’t aware of the limitations that Theranos had. In truth, Theranos’s devices were far less versatile and less accurate than the company alleged, often causing them to rely on third-party machines. The prosecution also revealed chilling private texts between Holmes and her former boyfriend and Theranos COO Sunny Balwani, in which she described herself as the, quote, “best business person of the year.”


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, those texts are something. Bipartisan Congressional negotiations on a sweeping police reform bill broke down yesterday. The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March. And Democratic Senator Cori Booker and Representative Karen Bass had been working on a deal with Republican Senator Tim Scott since then. However, Democrats doubled down on issues like more transparency with departments, and ending qualified immunity, while Republicans objected. Both sides blame each other for talks breaking down. And in a statement, Booker wrote, quote, “We made it clear from the beginning of our negotiations that a bill must ensure true accountability, transparency and policing standards.” Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden may take executive action, and Biden released a statement saying that he still hopes to sign a police reform bill into law that honors George Floyd.


Tre’vell Anderson: Former President and former social media user Donald Trump is tired of always being on the defensive in courts. He filed a lawsuit yesterday against his niece and reporters at The New York Times accusing them of conspiring to publish his tax records. In the suit, Trump claims that Mary Trump and the reporters were, quote, “engaged in an insidious plot” to get hold of his very shady records. At the center of this case is an article the Times published in 2018, which found that Trump inherited the equivalent of $413 million from his dad, with most of the money coming from, quote, “dubious tax schemes.” Rightfully, this article casts doubt on Trump’s claims that he was a self-made billionaire. Don’t laugh because Kylie Jenner went through the exact same media cycle and it was really serious, OK. Trump’s legal team is seeking punitive and compensatory damages, claiming that the former president lost at least $100 million as a result of Mary and the reporters’ actions. That implies there were a lot of investors who read this article and learned for the first time that Trump might not be honest. Legal experts think Trump’s lawsuit is highly unlikely to succeed and is probably intended more to bolster his various fake news narratives. Mary Trump described the suit simply, referring to her uncle as, quote, “a fucking loser.”


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we all have that one uncle, you know, who’s just doing this kind of stuff all the time.


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, I cannot agree to that, Gideon. But let’s just say Mary Trump is not getting an invite for Thanksgiving. She’ll be doing that alone. So shout out to her.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting holiday for sure. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go, Crooked Media has launched the brand new video series Crooked History. It is narrated by familiar voices like Pod Save the World’s Ben Rhodes, Hysteria’s Erin Ryan, and Pod Save The People’s Kaya Henderson. The series is going to take you through pivotal moments in history that changed our politics forever, from the launch of the Sputnik satellite to the election of Richard Nixon. And you can check out new episodes of Crooked History on the Crooked Media YouTube channel or head over to Crooked.com/crookedhistory to learn more. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, help us down from our enormous platform shoes, and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just arguments that Kylie Jenner actually is a self-made billionaire like me, What A Day is a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And stand down, pumpkin stuff!


Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t want it.


Gideon Resnick: Except the pumpkin candy corn, which I’ll admit I do want.


Tre’vell Anderson: No, thank you. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.