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False Claims Surrounding Twin Falls Sex Assault Draw National Headlines

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GEORGE HODAN, PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • George Hodan, public domain


National media outlets picked up on the convoluted story about an alleged sexual assault against a 5-year-old girl in Twin Falls.

While local officials confirmed an assault was reported and is under investigation, many of the details have been twisted with some accounts claiming the girl was raped at knifepoint by Syrian refugees.

According to authorities, no rape occurred, there was no knife, and suspects were juveniles from Iraq and Sudan, not Syria.

An 89-year-old Twin Falls resident identified as "Grandma Jo" told KIVI of her discovery of the alleged assault, finding the two boys alone in an apartment complex laundry room with the alleged victim, who was naked and covered in urine.

"It was terrible," she told KIVI.

Meanwhile, Fox News on June 22 wrote, "Idaho town torn by alleged rape, fear of refugees." The story described furor coming from anti-refugee news sites as "clouded by emotion and rumor." It also noted the story had "gained little traction with the national media."

Eventually, other news outlets piled on, with The Washington Post and New York Daily News each running stories of their own. The Post reported rumors surrounding the alleged incident had "threatened to compromise this sexual assault investigation as well as others in the future." At the Daily News, coverage gravitated toward anti-refugee websites' changing narratives as Twin Falls Police Department officials clarified details of the assault.

National news media attention comes in the footsteps of a strident editorial in the Twin Falls Times-News decrying "ruthless refugee opponents," and reports of the Twin Falls County prosecutor and the city's police chief weighing in on the proliferation of false information.

According to Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, alleged perpetrators have been detained at a local juvenile detention facility.