Media outlets ignore motive of antisemitic shooter

The mainstream media have long struggled to see violence as anything other than a right-wing phenomenon.

By Drew Holden, The Washington Free Beacon

A woman toting a rifle emblazoned with a “Palestine” sticker walked into a pro-Israel celebrity pastor’s church and opened fire, according to law enforcement officials. News outlets declared the motive a “mystery.”

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, an immigrant from El Salvador, shot up Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, injuring a worshipper before security guards shot her dead, the FBI and local police said. The church is home to televangelist Joel Osteen, a vocal supporter of Israel and friend of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Police said they found anti-Semitic writings among Moreno’s belongings. Early reports also said the sticker on Moreno’s rifle said “Free Palestine,” but police later revealed the sticker said “Palestine.”

It would be easy to connect the dots and draw the obvious conclusion: The shooting was part of a worldwide eruption of anti-Semitism amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. But mainstream media have long struggled to see violence as anything other than a right-wing phenomenon.

Both NBC News and ABC News decided the lack of an established motive for the shooting belonged in their headlines on Monday—before later changing their minds.

Other media similarly downplayed the anti-Semitism angle, instead focusing on evidence that Moreno was mentally ill and had been allowed to legally purchase an AR-15.

MSNBC covered the shooting for at least 24 hours without mentioning the revelations about Moreno’s anti-Semitic writings or “Palestine”-branded gun.

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A CNN roundup on Wednesday included those facts only in the final few paragraphs, after some 1,500 words about mental illness and “red flags.” Even then, the information was presented in the context of Moreno’s problems with her ex-husband’s family, “some of whom are Jewish.”

This would not be the first time the media have been reluctant to report left-wing motives for headline-making attacks.

After an anti-Israel protester struck and killed a Jewish man in Los Angeles in November, NBC, CNN, and other outlets whitewashed the violent political circumstances of his death.

A woman who identified as a man killed three children in a Nashville school shooting in March, leading NBC News, HuffPost, and others to suggest the real victim was the transgender community.

A former volunteer for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) tried to murder Republicans at a practice for the 2017 congressional baseball game, and outlets were quick to declare it wasn’t Democrats’ fault. USA Today reported that “political vitriol” from the left was not a factor, “experts say.”

It has often been a different story when a perpetrator can be tied, however tangentially or implausibly, to the right.

In May 2022, the Justice Department called a shooting in Buffalo, New York, in which a gunman killed 10 people, “an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.” Within a few days, news outlets had gone much further—all but pinning the massacre on then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

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“Under Pressure: Tucker Carlson’s Debunked Conspiracy Theory Cited by Buffalo Shooting Suspect,” MSNBC, May 16, 2022

“Yes, Tucker Carlson Shares Blame for the Buffalo Supermarket Attack,” New York magazine, May 16, 2022

“Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Under Fresh Scrutiny After Buffalo Mass Shooting,” NBC News, May 16, 2022

The Washington Post later acknowledged: “There’s no indication that [the shooter] watched Carlson’s program.” The shooter’s manifesto made clear that he hated Fox News.

A few months later, in November 2022, the media rushed to connect a shooting that killed five people at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs to right-wing anti-LGBT bigotry, even as the FBI’s Denver field office was still investigating the gunman’s motive.

“Club Q Attack No Surprise for Extremism Experts Who Saw Looming Threat, Decades-Old Pattern,” USA Today, Nov. 25, 2022:

The people paying attention to extremism in America knew an attack like the one at Club Q was coming.

Experts who monitor the far right have watched for months as public aggression toward the LGBTQ community, in general, and the transgender population, in particular, has ramped up.

“Colorado Springs Shooting Comes Amid Rise in Anti-LGBTQ Political Rhetoric,” ABC News, Nov. 22, 2022:

The weekend mass shooting at the Colorado Springs gay bar has reignited the debate over whether anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric encourages such attacks or otherwise helps create a hostile environment given the widespread access to high-powered weapons used in similar assaults. …

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The tragedy occurred in the backyard of one of Congress’ staunchest gun rights advocates—Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert—who tweeted prayers for the victims of the mass shooting, much to the ire of Democrats who said her past remarks about the LGBTQ+ community helped lead to the attack.

“Club Q Shooting Follows Year of Bomb Threats, Drag Protests, Anti-Trans Bills,” Washington Post, Nov. 20, 2022.

Right-wing demonstrators have increasingly mobilized over the past year against the LGBTQ community, experts say

Investigators soon revealed that the shooter identified as “nonbinary” and had repeatedly patronized the club.

Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, outlets pointed to Republican “homophobia” and efforts to restrict gay marriage. The New York Times’s editorial board explicitly blamed the GOP:

While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, it is evident that Mr. [Omar] Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians. Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.

As it turned out, the shooter had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group and targeted the club at random.