The New York Times was criticized over the weekend after running a story where the paper seemingly tried to rewrite the motives of James Hodgkinson, the lone gunman who is responsible for the ambush shooting on congressional Republicans last week.
While the motive behind the attack will likely never be known, most believe hyper-partisan politics are to blame. After all, Hodgkinson only attacked Republicans and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) continues to fight for his life in the hospital after being gravely injured from a bullet fired by Hodgkinson.
Indeed, when authorities confirmed last Wednesday that Hodgkinson was the shooter, the 66-year-old’s social media postings began to be heavily scrutinized because they painted a clear picture: Hodgkinson was a stalwart supporter of socialist politics and had a deep hatred for President Donald Trump and Republicans.
Despite the wealth of evidence that supports the motive being partisan hatred, the Times on Saturday attempted to paint a much different picture: that Hodgkinson attacked the congressmen because he was an unstable man and it had nothing to do with politics.
The story’s headline emphasizes that idea: “Before the Gunfire in Virginia, a Volatile Home Life in Illinois.”
The story said:
No one can truly know what motivates a man to drive halfway across the country, live out of his car — as Mr. Hodgkinson apparently did — and attempt a mass killing of members of Congress. In the days since the shooting, much has been made of Mr. Hodgkinson’s strong political views — he was an ardent supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders’s bid for the 2016 presidential nomination, and he railed against President Trump and Republicans in Washington on his Facebook page and in letters to the editor of the local newspaper.
But another aspect of his personality may have also presaged the shooting: his troubled home life.
The story goes on to say that Hodgkinson likely suffered from some sort of mental illness and his political beliefs had “little” to do with his desire to target only congressional Republicans, even quoting a local Democratic staffer who categorically denied that Hodgkinson ever volunteered for them.
The paper then went on to describe in detail Hodgkinson’s life as a foster parent and detailed the “much darker moments” of his life like one instance of domestic abuse and the decision of one foster child to commit suicide.
And while it is helpful for investigators to know Hodgkinson’s background in order to develop a better understanding of who the shooter was, the Times story seemingly ignores what most others don’t, including one of Hodgkinson’s Illinois neighbors, who told the paper that while “life moved on for other people” following the 2016 election, the election “never ended for” Hodgkinson.
People voiced their criticisms of the paper on Twitter:
The article should explore why liberals are being encouraged to kill opponents.
— Caroline Arnold (@CarolineArnoldx) June 17, 2017
Perpetrated by some lefty or mentally ill person that the left wouldn't commit or lock up we aren't perfect but we know evil when we see it
— Mike Stewart (@Mike_R_Stewart) June 17, 2017
Shot: Bernie Bro/Trump hater/Maddow lover targets Repubs @ baseball game; hit list of Repubs in pocket.
Chaser: NYT clueless for motive.
— Ivan Alaska (@Ivanalaska) June 18, 2017
One person even tweeted to one of the story’s authors that the Times is playing to its base with the story:
No surprise the @nytimes would choose to play to their base.
— JR Hansen (@JRHansen4) June 17, 2017
The author then said the story was just journalism, before being accused of trying to “cover up” the shooter’s actual motive:
It's not playing to a base to publish news stories that are deeply reported in the days after a news event; it's called journalism.
— Alan Blinder (@alanblinder) June 17, 2017
In this case it's called a cover-up. You're trying to obscure your outlet is part of the problem
— Jerome Goolsby (@JLG1956) June 18, 2017
But, of course, the Times doesn’t always try to whitewash the ideological beliefs of people who commit atrocities.
Last month, when a racist man killed two people on a Portland commuter train, the Times emphasized the fact that the perpetrator was racist and had anti-Muslim views.
One story read: “Three Men Stood Up to Anti-Muslim Attack. Two Paid With Their Lives.”
Another was headlined: “Oregon Man Accused of Deadly Anti-Muslim Tirade Continues Rant in Court.”
And even another: “Two Killed in Portland While Trying to Stop Anti-Muslim Rant, Police Say.”