Memorial Bench for Matthew Shepard, Laramie Wyoming

By now, a lot of you are aware of a vile book coming out in October which will smear Matthew Shepard’s name.

Openly gay author, Stephen Jimenez, is claiming that not only was Shepard’s murder the result of a drug deal rather than because of anti-gay bias, but also Shepard and one of his murderers, Aaron McKinney, were lovers.

You can practically hear the religious right squealing and the concern trolls on our side of the spectrum rising up to defend this piece of hokum, even though Jimenez makes these assertions without an ounce of concrete evidence.

So it is again that I say THANK YOU to watchdog group Media Matters who reveals several facts about Jimenez’s work which the religious right will deliberately omit and the mainstream media will probably accidentally omit.

I’m just going to give you some pertinent parts:

Right-wing media outlets are already celebrating a forthcoming book that claims that brutal 1998 murder of gay Wyoming teen Matthew Shepard – which became a rallying cry for LGBT activists – was actually fueled more by drug use than anti-gay bias.

In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez argues that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson bludgeoned Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Jimenez minimizes the role of anti-gay bias in the murder, writing that Shepard and McKinney had previously had sex and done meth together (an assertion that McKinney himself denies).

Although his report of a sexual history between Shepard and McKinney is new, Jimenez’s central thesis – that drugs were the motivating factor in Shepard’s murder - has been called into question before.

In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a piece on the Shepard murder for ABC News’ 20/20.  GLAAD highlighted key shortcomings in 20/20‘s report, including the lack of hard evidence that drugs were a factor and its failure to point out that McKinney himself had cited ant-gay bias as a central element in the case, even attempting to employ a “gay panic” defense at trial. Shepard’s mother also condemned the report, criticizing its selective reading of evidence and accusing ABC of taking her comments out of context.

The 20/20 report neglected to mention another crucial detail: that Jimenez was a friend of Tim Newcomb, Henderson’s defense attorney.

Most disturbingly, email correspondence revealed that the Jimenez had already decided that Shepard’s murder wasn’t an anti-gay hate crime before 20/20 even started its reporting. As Gay City News reported in December 2004:

Roughly two months before reporting began for a “20/20″ piece on the Matthew Shepard killing, [Stephen Jimenez,] the freelance producer who sold the story to the ABC program had decided that methamphetamine motivated the murder and not anti-gay bias. And barely two months into a six-month span of reporting on the piece, a “20/20″ producer wrote in an e-mail that the “‘hate crime’ motivation of Shepard’s death” was a “flawed theory.” Sean Maloney, a senior attorney at Willkie, Farr and Gallagher who represents the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said of “20/20″‘s apparent prejudgment of the story, “This strikes us as bad journalism. There is a significant body of evidence that says that anti-gay bias played a role in Matt’s death.”

Photo by Wyoming_Jackrabbit under Creative Commons license