During the reporting of the murders in a black church in Charleston, the assumed racist motive of the shooter, white man Dylann Roof, was immediately the talk of the media. But now, after an African American murdered two white former co-workers and then released a 23-page, race-tinged manifesto, some in the media are suddenly squeamish about reporting the race-based motives of the killer.
On the day he killed two white former co-workers of WSBJ TV in Virginia, killer Vester Lee Flanagan sent a rambling 23-page manifesto to ABC’s New York offices explaining that he was killing his white co-workers to get even with the murders of African Americans in Charleston. In his letter Flanagan made no bones about the fact that he wanted to start a race war.
But whereas the media spent weeks after the murders in Charleston discussing Dylann Roof’s racism and even drummed up an entire tangent against the Confederate flag–because in one photo Roof was seen with one–the race war that Flanagan wanted is of less interest to some in the media.
CNN, for instance, wrote an entire report focused on Flanagan’s mental state but mentioned his comments about race only once in a 1,500 word story.
A CBS report never mentioned the shooter’s racial comments at all. The piece did tiptoe around the shooter’s problems with race in two paragraphs, but never actually stated his race rhetoric seen in the explicit terms revealed in his manifesto.
Then, a piece in the Chicago Tribune called the killer “off kilter” and “bizarre” but steered clear of fully reporting on his racist ideas.
One reporter, The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, even took to Twitter to wring his hands over the reporting of Flanagan’s racist manifesto, saying to Breitbart’s John Nolte, “Do you worry at all that the ‘race war’ story does what the killer wanted?”
@NolteNC Do you worry at all that the “race war” story does what the killer wanted?
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) August 26, 2015
To be sure, Weigel was far less worried about stirring racial strife when he wrote a Bloomberg piece dissecting the racial motives of Charleston killer Dylann Roof.
While Weigel scolded Nolte, though, several other outlets also talked of Flanagan’s “race war” rhetoric. Gossip site TMZ blared the fact in its headline on Wednesday. So did the New York Post. Even The Hill reported Flanagan’s desire to start a race war.
One wonders how Weigel feels about those outlets?
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org