The Gay Passion Play Unravels?

Brent Bozell's column is released twice a week.

Brent Bozell III

Within days of being brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998, Matthew Shepard became for the Left a Christ figure, a sacrificial savior of the gay-rights cause. They even composed a passion play indicting a bigoted America in the hate crime, "The Laramie Project," that's been performed across the country, even in public schools.

Ford's Theatre, the historic site of Abraham Lincoln's murder, has been selected as a natural Washington site for a restaging of this play, as well as a whole slate of panel discussions and other events on preventing hate, with The Washington Post signing as "Official Media Partner."

Now they all face a real problem: "What if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard's murder was wrong?"

That's the question asked by Aaron Hicklin, the gay editor of Out magazine, in discussing a new book called "The Book of Matt" by a gay man named Stephen Jimenez. Hicklin wondered, "Did our need to make a symbol of Shepard blind us to a messy, complex story that is darker and more troubling than the established narrative?"

Jimenez argues after years of research and interviews that Shepard and his killers Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were deeply involved in drugs. Not only that, they may not be straight men. McKinney presented himself as a "straight hustler," turning tricks for money or drugs, but others say he's bisexual. A former lover of Shepard's claims Shepard and McKinney had sex while doing drugs in the back of a limo. As Hicklin recounted, "A manager of a gay bar in Denver recalls seeing photos of McKinney and Henderson in the papers and recognizing them as patrons of his bar. He recounts his shock at realizing, 'these guys who killed that kid came from inside our own community.'"

The media don't have to accept this theory whole. But after the countless stories claiming Shepard was a victim of an anti-gay hate crime, shouldn't they cover it? But it shouldn't be surprising that the liberal media have completely ignored Jimenez. The Washington Post is the most duplicitous. The Post is so shameless that they wrote a big article on Ford staging "The Laramie Project" without making any effort to identify themselves as the "Official Media Partner" of this propaganda festival.

It is even worse than this. The Shepard gay hate crime victim story was exposed as false ... almost 10 years ago.

ABC's "20/20" took apart the legend in 2004. Elizabeth Vargas told Bill O'Reilly that the prosecutor in the Shepard case never believed it was a hate crime. Instead, it was about drugs: "Aaron McKinney, according to Aaron McKinney himself and to several other witnesses, was coming down from a five-day methamphetamine binge. He freely admits he not only used methamphetamine but dealt them, sold them. Five days up with no sleep, strung out on drugs, desperate to buy more, desperate to rob somebody to get money to buy more drugs."

ABC did not consider that McKinney was a lover of Shepard's. Any part of this counter-narrative makes the media look like myth-exploiters. The Shepard story made the cover of Time magazine in 1998 with the headline, "The War Over Gays," with reporters indicting religious conservatives and demanding a spate of hate-crime laws and other gay-left agenda items.

This counter-narrative would unravel the long-dominant guilt trip that "Laramie Project" playwright Moises Kaufmann has laid on the doorstep of Americans (and especially American Christians). In 2010, The Washington Post championed the guilt trip essential to the play. In the script, a Baptist minister says, "there are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. Everyone needs to own it."

Next, a Catholic priest insists the killers "must be our teachers. What did we as a society do to teach you that?" A character also reads an email from a college student: "You and the straight people of Laramie and Wyoming are guilty of the beating of Matthew Shepard just as the Germans who looked the other way are guilty of the deaths of the Jews, the gypsies and the homosexuals. You have taught your straight children to hate their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters — until and unless you acknowledge that Matt Shepard's beating is not just a random occurrence, not just the work of a couple of random crazies, you have Matthew's blood on your hands."

The media have repeatedly proven their warm feelings toward any author who alleges that the Bible is unreliable and who theorizes that the "historical Jesus" was something different than the Christian story. But Jimenez can pound sand. They're clinging to the Matthew Shepard legend as a much more righteous text that must not be challenged. This secular Church of Matthew doesn't tolerate dissenters. They cannot be heretics against this murdered savior.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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