The mother of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, has asked that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and other Republican leaders cease invoking her son’s name on behalf of the Republican Party’s effort to win the White House in November.
In a letter-to-the-editor that was published Saturday in The New York Times, Steven’s mother, Mary Commanday, wrote, “As Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s mother, I am writing to object to any mention of his name and death in Benghazi, Libya, by Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party.”
“I know for certain that Chris would not have wanted his name or memory used in that connection. I hope that there will be an immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical use by the campaign.”
This is not the first time that members of the ambassador’s family have spoken out against what they evidently see as the politicization of Stevens’ death. His sister, Anne Stevens, said in an interview last month with The New Yorker, “I do not blame Hillary Clinton or [Former Secretary of Defense] Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had.”
Speaking, as well, about the aforementioned politicization, Anne Stevens also said, “With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris’s death as a political point—is not appropriate.”
Unfortunately, these expectations on the part of the Stevens family, while understandable at an emotional level, are unreasonable. Ambassador Stevens was a prominent public figure, and one who chose to be exactly that. Furthermore, his death, while obviously tragic and horrible, was a news event of global significance, and one from which stem a variety of political implications. Given that, it’s not reasonable for anyone to expect that his death won’t be a subject of discussion in political forums for years to come, including in political campaigns. Moreover, the implications of granting such requests would be nothing short of bizarre; what sensible person would really be OK with the relative of a newsworthy decedent having the power to silence public discussion about that person? Also troubling is the idea that because the decedent’s family doesn’t necessarily like or agree with the politics of the candidate invoking their relative’s name, that they should have the power to prevent him or her from publicly discussing the death and/or the circumstances surrounding it.
While I’m genuinely sorry for Mary Commanday, the larger issues at play here far outsize in significance even the death of her beloved son.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large