Apr 25, 2006

Hate vs. misinformation

Dear Mr. French,
Now that you are back from your time off I was wondering if you could take a look into the issue I had with the Editor’s Note on my Letter to the Editor. To summarize, my original Letter was published on Mon. 4/3, and it concerned a point in a Taryn Plume article published 3/23, entitled ‘Fighting Hate’. Taryn asserted that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay – my argument was that he was murdered by two crazed methamphetamine addicts who wanted money and could not have cared less that Shepard was gay. I cited the following ABC 20/20 story, the Editor’s note also referred to the same article; http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=277685&page=3

The key quotes from the ABC 20/20 story are the following:
Former Laramie Police Detective Ben Fritzen, one of the lead investigators in the case, also believed robbery was the primary motive. "Matthew Shepard's sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn't the motive in the homicide," he said.

[Prosecutor Cal] Rerucha attributes McKinney's rage and his savage beating of Shepard to his drug abuse. "The methamphetamine just fueled to this point where there was no control. It was a horrible, horrible, horrible murder. It was a murder that was once again driven by drugs," Rerucha said.

Read the story for yourself, and there is nothing to support the urban legend that the Investigators believed that Shepard was killed because he was gay. In light of these facts, the Editor’s Note that Investigators dismissed the killer’s claims was clearly wrong, and should be corrected.

For what it is worth, the mistake made by the person writing the Editor’s Note was that they did not read the original 20/20 story, and quite possibly used an unreliable secondary online source, Wikipedia, as the source for this erroneous verification. That’s why the Editor’s Note that claimed “Investigators dismissed the claims” has no basis in fact. This Editor’s Note has underscored the point of my original Letter to the Editor, that you cannot fight hate with misinformation – at least it will when it is corrected.

Thank you for your time and effort in this matter.
Jay G.

Note: Mr. George French of the T&G Editorial Dept. is looking into this. I'll report on it.

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