The world has descended on Orlando after the murder of 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse on Sunday. But there’s a curious thing that keeps popping up: some politicians and observers seem mighty reluctant to dwell on the fact that the victims were LGBT people.
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, for instance, tweeted that it was an “unnecessary dividing line” to focus on the homophobic aspect of the massacre. Openly gay New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote that this wasn’t the time to dwell on “identity politics.” And there were a boatload of politicians who sent prayers and condolences to the victims while downplaying or ignoring that they were killed in part because of their sexuality.
One especially egregious example of this tendency came during a segment on the British news network Sky News on Sunday night. It was so bad that one of the participants, Guardian columnist Owen Jones, walked off the set.
Jones, who is gay, was part of a panel discussing media coverage of the shootings on the UK television network. He repeatedly tried to impress upon the other members of the panel that this was a “homophobic hate crime.”
But fellow panelist Julia Hartley-Brewer and host Mark Longhurst seemed to have a laundry list of reasons to downplay hatred of LGBT people in the attack. They included:
- “Whatever reason you do it, if you kill 50 people, you are a lunatic.”
- “It’s something carried about against human beings, isn’t it?”
- “You can’t say this is a worse attack than what happened in Paris.”
- “You don’t have ownership of horror on this crime because you’re gay.”
- “My guess is this man would probably be as horrified as me as a gobby woman.”
- “He may have been angered by many other things since then.”
- “We’re always going to have mad and bad people in the world.”
After an intense back and forth over these arguments, Jones was quiet for a while, obviously shocked by these attempts to soft-pedal the role of anti-gay bigotry in the attack. But when Longhurst began to quote the UK gay rights group Stonewall, Jones clearly had had enough and walked off the set.
In a Guardian column on his appearance, Jones said his walking off was “an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation.“
“This was homophobia as well as terrorism,” Jones wrote. “It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened.”
Jones criticized some other media outlets as well in his column—such as The New York Times, for failing to note Pulse is a gay club in its initial reports, and UK newspaper The Daily Mail for not even putting the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history on its front page.
Later, Longhurst said he had not meant to “offend” anyone with his handling of the story.
Read Fusion’s full coverage of the Orlando massacre here.
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