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Joy Reid calls out Gabby Petito coverage: “Missing White Woman Syndrome”

“The ReidOut” host asked why missing people of color don’t get “the same media attention.”

Joy Reid Getty

Joy Reid called out inconsistent media coverage of missing people in the U.S. in light of the recent viral story about Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white travel blogger who went missing earlier this month while on a cross country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. Updates about authorities’ search for Petito dominated news cycles last week and, sadly, police believe they discovered her remains in Wyoming on Sunday (Sept. 19).

On her Monday (Sept. 20) episode of “The ReidOut,” Reid pointed to the way Petito’s story has “captivated the nation” and asked why missing people of color don’t get “the same media attention.”

“The answer actually has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome, the term coined by the late and great Gwen Ifill to describe the media and public fascination with missing white women like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway while ignoring cases involving missing people of color,” Reid said.

To provide an example, Reid discussed the missing persons case of Daniel Robinson, a 24-year-old Black geologist who disappeared after a car crash in Arizona this June. Robinson’s father has hired a private investigator to help find his son, organized search parties and launched a website, but the story only gained renewed media attention this past week.

“We have been sounding the alarm for nearly 14 years because… when it comes to missing persons of color — men, women and children, our cases are not taken seriously and no one is looking for us if we were to go missing,” panelist Derrica Wilson of the Black and Missing Foundation said on the show.

Another panelist, Lynette Grey Bull of Not Our Native Daughters Foundation, also spoke on the lack of media coverage about missing Indigenous women and girls.

“One of the main factors and one of the key factors that a lot of people don’t want to talk about is that it’s racism. It’s systemic racism,” she said. “We’re still fighting oppression in our tribal communities. We are still facing inequality across the board, whether it comes to our community, housing [or] jobs.”

On Tuesday (Sept. 21), several outlets reported on a January study that found at least 710 Indigenous people, mostly girls, have gone missing over the past decade near the Wyoming area where Petito’s body may have been found.

“It goes without saying that no family should ever endure that type of pain,” Reid said. “The Petito family certainly deserves answers and justice.” See a snippet from Reid’s show below.

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