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Shepard Revisionism

WorldNetDaily and prominent conservatives would rather believe convicted killers and known liars than a gay person.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/13/2004

WorldNetDaily is joining other conservatives in the Matthew Shepard revisionism movement.

Shepherd, of course, is the gay Wyoming college student who was beaten to death in 1998. What set off this current fit of revisionism was a Nov. 26 interview on ABC’s "20/20" with the two men who killed him, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who now claim that they killed Shepard as the result of a robbery that went bad, not a hate crime.

"Was Matthew Shepard just a robbery victim?" asks the headline of a Nov. 14 WND article previewing the ABC piece -- a highly unusual move for WND to promote the work of the "liberal media." Then, on Dec. 11, WND reported on Focus on the Family's sudden, belated decision to demand an apology from NBC's Katie Couric for a 1998 interview in which she allegedly suggested that Bible believers were responsible for creating the "climate" in which the attack took place.

Actually, "reported on" is a generous way of putting it since no actual reporting work on the part of WND was involved beyond rewriting a couple Focus on the Family press releases, one of which claims that the "20/20" piece "debunked the longstanding notion that the attack on Shepard was a homophobic 'hate crime.'" The NBC response in the WND article -- that Couric was quoting gay activists -- comes from one of those Focus on the Family press releases, not from NBC, even though it's written as if NBC had made some direct contribution. It's another recent example of WND's press-release journalism; it took the same approach with the case of the school district being sued over allegedly banning the Declaration of Independence, printing the press release from the conservative legal group suing the school district almost verbatim and making no attempt to contact the school district.

Focus on the Family and WND are not the only conservative groups jumping on the revisionist bandwagon. Agape Press (a news service run by the conservative American Family Association) quotes Gary Bauer of the conservative Campaign for Working Families as buying into the "20/20" story, as claiming that "these latest facts revealed in the case may have unraveled one of the pro-homosexual lobby's best arguments for hate crime legislation." Shepard's murder, the Agape Press article claims, "was in fact a bungled burglary, motivated not by hate or homophobic rage but by money and drugs," and that he was killed "for refusing to pay drug dealers for his drugs."

Trying to discount Shepard's murder has been going on among conservatives long before the "20/20" report. In a March 13 column attacking John Kerry, WorldNetDaily's Les Kinsolving hinted that Shepard seemed to deserve what happened to him:

Matthew Shepard was an adult homosexual who went into a bar and propositioned two thugs in addition to his rubbing of one of their crotches. This did not justify their beating him up – or tying (not nailing) him to a fence. But their attack was definitely NOT "only because he was gay," as claimed by this Democrat Presidential Misinformer.

Why didn't Candidate Kerry mention the Arkansas case of Jesse Dirkhising, age 14, who was tied to a bed by two homosexual adults who sodomized him for four hours until they murdered him?

Jesse had done nothing to these two men that was comparable to what Matt Shepard did in that bar.

As ConWebWatch has previously noted, Kinsolving has a problem with gay people; this column drops a favorite term of his, "the Sodomy Lobby," and adds a new one, "buggery betrothals." And as ConWebWatch has also previously noted, Dirkhising is the conservatives' anti-Shepard, raped and killed by two homosexuals, brought up as a reason not to protect gays under hate-crime laws.

WND editor Joseph Farah joins in the revisionism in a Dec. 13 column, offering up Dirkhising as a more worthy victim than Shepard. (Farah demonstrates how little he cares about Shepard by spelling his name wrong throughout his column.) He recounts the grisly details of the Dirkhising case, but not Shepard's death. He insinuates that all homosexuals are pedophilic predators:

I wonder why one death was so nationally significant and the other wasn't? I wonder why one death led to new laws being written and the other didn't? I wonder if it could have anything to do with the fact that the perpetrators of the Dirkhising murder were members of a special class of people we're told deserve extra government privileges and recognition? I wonder if it could have anything to do with the fact that the case illustrates so accurately the dark underbelly of the homosexual lifestyle -- the part the elite media don't want you to see?


Jesse Dirkhising was brutally raped, tortured and murdered – for fun, for thrills, for the hell of it, because it felt good, maybe even because a certain politically protected lifestyle has been elevated to virtual sainthood.

Farah insists that the ABC report "exploded the myth, once and for all, that Matthew Shephard's [sic] Wyoming murder a year earlier was a 'hate crime' based on his homosexuality." This sudden faith in ABC's accuracy comes despite the fact that Farah himself claimed in a Dec. 6 column -- one week earlier -- that if ABC anchor Peter Jennings doesn't denounce CBS' Dan Rather over that Bush National Guard document scandal, "I think the public should assume the standards of journalism at ABC are just as low as they were at CBS under Rather's watch."

(And for all of Farah's bragging that "I broke the first national coverage" of Dirkhising's death, WND couldn't be bothered to offer original coverage of the murder trial of one of Dirkhising's killers, as ConWebWatch has noted.)

In reality, Farah and WND are in the same situation it was when they signed Aaron Tonken to a book deal: They has chosen to believe a convicted felon because he, like the two convicted of killing Shepard, is saying what Farah and WND wants to hear. In Tonken's case, he had some juicy tidbits to offer about the Clintons.

Journalist David Neiwert -- who has done a lot more research on hate crimes than anyone at WND has -- has detailed the flaws in ABC's story. The main flaw is that McKinney and Henderson have a long record of lying, so it's rather impossible to believe anything they have to say now, especially given that the hate-crime aspect was corroborated at trial.

Neiwert notes that McKinney has given "multiple, conflicting accounts of what happened that night" and attempted a "gay panic" defense during his trial:

[The ABC report] omits the fact that McKinney has now changed his story at least three times, and probably more, raising serious doubts about his credibility anyway. It also omits the fact that other detectives in the case testified at trial that the victim was selected for violence, and was beaten especially severely, because he was gay. Their testimony was based on their actual conversations with McKinney and Henderson.

And a Wyoming police detective who worked on the Shepard case called the ABC report slanted. "Only three people know what really happened that night," retired Laramie Police Chief Dave O'Malley told a Laramie newspaper. "One of them is dead and the other two are known liars and convicted felons -- murderers."

That's the situation we're in here. Farah and his fellow conservatives appear to believe that convicted felons and known liars are more trustworthy than a gay person.

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