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Just like they did in 2015, Republicans are falsely blaming trans people for a mass shooting
Despite having absolutely nothing to do with trans people, the right is floating the "Hey, maybe the killer was trans" attack line. It needs to end.
On November 27, 2015, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, Robert Lewis Dear Jr. walked into a Colorado Springs, Colorado, Planned Parenthood clinic. There, Dear shot and killed three people and injured nine others.
“No more baby parts,” Dear told police after his arrest.
“Baby parts” was a reference to a 2015 right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood that began when a group called the Center for Medical Progress released a series of deceptively edited videos featuring Planned Parenthood staff and biomedical research companies. The videos purported to be evidence that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling “baby parts” to these companies. This wasn’t true, but it made for a compelling narrative on the right, with the phrases “baby parts” and “parts of babies” earning 83 mentions on Fox News and Fox Business. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina even devoted time during a September 2015 debate to tell a completely false story, claiming that she watched the videos and saw “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’”
My point here: this narrative was everywhere on the right back then. People were told it was irresponsible to lie about something like this, but they did it anyway. And then a man, clearly influenced by this smear campaign so much that he specifically cited it as his motive when he went on a murderous rampage.
So what happened after the shooting? Did the right own up to the dangerous rhetoric that undeniably led to the attack? Of course not.
As happens whenever a mass shooting happens, and especially when it’s one linked to their own poisonous rhetoric, Republicans acted shocked that anyone would even dare suggest that they had anything to do with it.
“The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told reporters, ignoring the fact that the shooter was quite literally repeating the “baby parts” lie as he murdered innocent people. And then Cruz took it a step further, saying that it had “also been reported that [Dear] was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist.”
Yes, Cruz seriously tried to argue that the shooter may have been “a transgendered1 leftist activist.” Is there any chance he actually believed this? No. Cruz is a smart man who acts like an idiot because it benefits him politically. The source of Cruz’s remark was something published by the right-wing Gateway Pundit blog, which pointed to a clerical error on Dear’s voter registration as evidence that he was transgender. This was an utterly absurd conclusion to land on (especially, again, given the fact that Dear himself said “baby parts”), but it was useful to the right’s narrative and they just went for it.
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That brings us to this week, when the right again tried to falsely blame trans people for a mass shooting.
Within hours of the horrific shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school that left 19 children and two adults dead, the right had landed once again on a familiar villain: trans people.
After the shooting, users on 4chan, a far-right forum, started sharing a photo of a trans woman named Sam, claiming that they were photos of 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, the actual shooter. From there, it spread.
NBC News’s Jo Yurcaba, Ben Goggin, and Ben Collins reported on what happened to Sam:
Social media users and trolls on 4chan, Twitter and Facebook are using Sam’s photos and images of at least two other transgender women to spread the baseless theory that the shooter was transgender. In some cases, they have created collages that place the women’s photos alongside images from an Instagram page believed to have belonged to the shooter.
The claims were spread by some prominent conservatives on Tuesday.
Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, said of the shooter in a since-deleted tweet, “It’s a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos.” Gosar has not returned a request for comment.
One of Sam’s photos was shared by the Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana Facebook page, which has more than 4,000 followers.
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who was successfully sued for defamation for falsely claiming the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was a hoax, also echoed the misinformation that the Uvalde shooting suspect was trans. Representatives for Jones’ website did not immediately respond for comment.
Conservative personality Candace Owens joined in on Wednesday, referencing “cross-dressing” photos she said she’d seen of the suspect. Owens has previously shared misinformation in her feeds and unsuccessfully sued Facebook in 2021 after the company added a fact-checking warning to one of her posts.
The photos that social media users are claiming show the shooter are actually of three different transgender women wearing skirts, including Sam, according to Trans Safety Network, a U.K.-based group that monitors online threats made against the transgender community. The group wrote in a post that all three women have confirmed they are alive.
In an effort to debunk the theory, Sam shared a photo of herself standing in front of a transgender Pride flag on Reddit Tuesday evening and wrote, “It’s not me, I don’t even live in Texas.” In response to a comment on the post, she said she just wants “to live without being attacked when I leave my house.” She also shared another photo of herself holding a piece of paper with the date on it.
While white nationalist Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) deleted his tweet, others, like Candace Owens, have left theirs up. They know it’s not true, but they don’t care. The thought process is simple: How can I connect this horrific event to a group of people I have been relentlessly trying to purge from society in a way that might help get others on board with the idea of purging them from society? That’s all it is.
Festing garbage heap of a man Glenn Beck similarly tried to argue that the school shooting in Uvalde was the result of, among other nonsensical things, “bathrooms that anybody can use.”
But I am sick of it. I am sick of this strategy being used to attack people like me. I am sick of this strategy being used to attack anyone. I want to see the people who pushed this nonsense sued into oblivion because they need to learn that you can’t just do this. It’s bad enough when people speculate about a shooter’s identity before knowing the truth, but it’s even worse when you continue to do it after learning what you’ve been posting is false. So please, Sam, if you’re reading this, find a lawyer and crush them. You’ll be doing yourself a service, but you’ll also be helping the rest of us who are sick of seeing this happen.
This stuff has real consequences, as you can see.
FYI: the word is “transgender,” not “transgendered.”