CNN's reporting of Wednesday's shooting of two Virginia journalists has bizarrely focused on the shooter's previous ownership of gay porn websites. But on Thursday, one of the network's anchors — Don Lemon — finally called out his colleagues over the coverage, which at times came off as homophobic.
"The gay porn site thing, to me, I don't really see the relevance of it," Lemon said in a video posted by Media Matters. "If it's not illegal, then what's wrong with him owning gay porn sites or straight porn sites or as a journalist forming a media company like Dan Abrams did? I don't see anything wrong with it. He's an entrepreneur, he's an American — as long as it's two consenting adults, I don't see what difference it makes."
He added, "I don't want to gay-shame him. There's nothing wrong with being gay. I'm sure he probably faced some discrimination, as we all do, and that's horrible. But it still does not condone his actions two days ago."
When Wolf Blitzer pointed out that Abrams owns a media website, not a gay porn website, Lemon shot back: "There's no difference, though. They're both legal. If Dan Abrams or anybody else wanted to start a gay porn website, as long as they're abiding by the law, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. You may look down upon it and judge it. But there's nothing illegal about it. I don't see why it's relevant in this particular case."
Although it was never explicitly stated, CNN's coverage seemed to draw a connection between the Virginia shooter's homosexuality — and his ownership of gay websites — and the shooting, perhaps playing on some viewers' feelings that being gay is inherently gross or wrong in some way. The reports had "the effect of associating homosexuality with deviancy, mental instability, and violence in the minds of viewers," Carlos Maza wrote for Media Matters.
CNN made no attempt to explain how the sites were relevant to the shooting — we already knew the shooter was gay, and the sites existed for years before the shooter began working at WDBJ, the TV station that employed the journalists he shot on Wednesday. Yet when correspondent Drew Griffin broke the news of the websites, he called it "just another disturbing twist" in the story of the shooting in another video posted by Media Matters.
But as Lemon pointed out, there's nothing disturbing about somebody owning a legal porn site. There are plenty of normal, healthy people with absolutely no mental health issues who run gay — and straight! — porn websites. Trying to draw a link between the shooting and the gay porn sites just reeks of pandering to a homophobic audience.