One of the first Muslims to be elected to public office in Virginia has come under attack after right-wing media outlets chose to target her and create false narratives around her work. Elected in 2019, Buta Biberaj unseated a Republican incumbent for Loudoun County’s commonwealth attorney position. As gubernatorial elections neared in Virginia, conservative media outlets used a former sexual assault case involving a Loudoun County school to spread disinformation about Biberaj and others.
According to the American Independent Foundation, the false accusations boosted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin accused Biberaj of attempting to cover up the sexual assault by silencing the father of the victim by having him arrested and pocketing money from investor George Soros. As a result of these conservative lies, Biberaj has received death threats on her personal cell, home, and office numbers.
Callers have left threatening messages like: “We’re coming for you, bitch,” “You don’t have to watch your back, we’re going to come at you from the front,” and, “You deserve everything you’re going to get.”
“Those individuals are highlighting the fact that I’m a woman, I’m of the Muslim faith, I’m … an immigrant,” Biberaj told the American Independent Foundation. “We’ve had threats and comments and harsh communication from white supremacist groups. So you see that and know that this is intentionally done to rile people up in that realm.”
But individual people are not the only ones threatening Biberaj; hate groups like VDARE are campaigning against her as well. VDARE published an article under the headline “White Father Arrested In Loudoun Protesting Daughter’s Rape In School Bathroom By ‘Teen’ In Skirt. Muslim Immigrant Prosecutor Buta Biberaj Wants To Jail FATHER,” on Oct. 11. According to the American Independent Foundation, the following day the organization shared the article in a tweet that called Biberaj a “Soros-backed immigrant Muslim prosecutor who is trying to jail a white father.” Six days later, the VDARE account replied to a tweet from the Youngkin campaign about ties between Biberaj and Soros and said that she was “an Albanian Muslim immigrant from Montenegro.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center references VDARE as “anti-immigration hate website” that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.”
Right-wing media outlets including Fox News and the Daily Wire used the Loudoun County sexual assault case as justification of why trans people should not use bathrooms that match their gender identity. They claimed that cisgender males would masquerade as trans females to assault girls in bathrooms and locker rooms and used this case to argue for “bathroom predator” myths.
While the boy charged in the case was reportedly wearing a skirt at the time of the assault, Biberaj said, he did not identify as transgender during the trial, and the assault took place after the girl had invited him to meet her in the bathroom. He then ”exceeded the permission and consent of the girl, which is what made it sexual assault,” she said.
A judge ruled against the boy on Oct. 26 in his first of two cases of sexual assault in the county.
Right-wing media outlets then claimed that the victim’s father was also arrested because Biberaj wanted to silence him even though reports found the father was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after a fight broke out at a school board meeting in June.
In an alleged “fact check,” the Republican Standard wrote on Oct. 27 that Biberaj “must have understood why Smith, who attended a Loudoun County School Board meeting on June 22 looking for answers, would’ve gotten upset after the district superintendent said the student suspected in his daughter’s assault didn’t exist. And yet, she appeared in court personally to push for jail time, a fine and anger management classes.”
Conservative outlets have continued to highlight her immigrant background, referring to her as not American as they make statements saying an immigrant prosecutor arrested an “American who complained about daughter’s rape.”
As the right-wing media lies spread, threats against Biberaj increased. When she brought them to the Virginia attorney general’s office, the Virginia State Police, and the FBI, she was advised to reevaluate the way she lives her life in order to protect her safety.
“The narrative just keeps changing to fit what the goal is … If you look at everything that’s out there, we knew nothing about the May 28 incident until July 9,” Biberaj said. “So all those narratives are intentional disinformation.”
She added the fact that Republican gubernatorial candidate Youngkin is spreading these lies is even more disheartening. Youngkin has not only called for Biberaj’s resignation but demanded a state and federal investigation into the Loudoun County School Board.
“The most frustrating thing is, we look to our leaders to create healthy communities. When individuals take incidents like this which are harmful, hurtful, as well as traumatic to families, and you’re going to take that and let that be your rally cry, just to promote something, then that means your political interests are greater than your people interests,” Biberaj said. “And, that to me, is not a sign of good leader[ship], because once this election is done, I don’t think Mr. Youngkin or any of the candidates may be in our day-to-day lives here in Loudoun County. But these families are still living here. The hurt that they’re causing will still reside here.”
“That’s not leadership,” she added.
According to Loudoun Now, investigations are being conducted in regards to the threats.
“The Virginia State Police is in receipt of the threats and has forwarded them to our Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Team, as is done with any email of an alarming/threatening nature that is received by an elected/public official. No arrest or charges have been placed at this time,” a statement from the State Police said.