On February 22, Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at the University of Georgia, was murdered while out for a morning run. The next day, police charged Jose Antonio Ibarra, an unauthorized immigrant, with murder. 

The story elicited remarks from many U.S. officials, including President Biden, who referred to Ibarra as an “illegal” during his State of the Union Address. (Biden later expressed regret over his word choice.)

Riley’s murder and Biden’s SOTU remarks were covered widely across the media spectrum, but outlets on the right and left often covered the story much differently.

How Left and Right Media Covered the Story Differently

Many outlets on the right focused on the murder as a consequence of mass unauthorized migration and Biden’s “illegal” remarks. Outlets on the left also covered Biden’s remarks, but focused more on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) reaction.

An analysis found the top words used by media covering "Laken Riley" and Biden's "illegal" comment on the left and right to vary greatly:

Analysis from Partisan Playground; Media Bias Ratings from AllSides.


RELATED: How Coverage of Immigration Reveals Media Bias

On the left, outlets mentioned Marjorie Taylor Greene more, who wore a red “MAGA” hat with a shirt reading “Say Her Name” and a button with Riley’s photo to the State of the Union address.

On the right, the term “Illegal” was used more, referring to Ibarra’s immigration status. While the right referred to Ibarra most-often as “Illegal,” the left was more likely to describe his status as “Undocumented.”

Other words used more on the right include descriptors regarding the suspect in the murder: “Ibarra,” “Alien,” “Arrested,” and “Released” (Ibarra was arrested in New York in 2023 and was released before ICE could deport him). The right also appeared to use Riley’s name more.

In addition to discussing Marjorie Taylor Greene, the left also mentioned former President Trump and President Biden by name more than the right. 

RELATED: Does Immigration Lead to More Crime?

Read AllSides to Better Understand the Full Story

Left and right media outlets portrayed Laken Riley’s murder and the subsequent developments much differently, but this is nothing new – sources on different sides often highlight separate angles around immigration.

Depending on your news intake, you may be subject to only hearing one side of the story. At AllSides, we provide balanced news via a selection of stories and analysis across the political media spectrum to help readers better understand the full picture.

Andrew Weinzierl is AllSides’ Bias Research Manager & Data Journalist. He has a Lean Left bias. Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This article was reviewed and edited by Henry A. Brechter, AllSides Editor-in-chief (Center bias), and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).