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WATCH: Is CNN Coverage of Virginia Gunman Homophobic?

WATCH: Is CNN Coverage of Virginia Gunman Homophobic?


Even one of CNN's most prominent personalities, out anchor Don Lemon, is bewildered by the network's apparent obsession with the killer's sexuality.

The revelation that the man who killed two young journalists -- and then himself -- this week in Virginia was gay has, for most major news outlets, merited just a brief mention as part of the overabundant coverage of the tragedy. Key exceptions have been CNN and one British tabloid, where nearly every aspect of Vester Lee Flanagan's gay life has apparently become fodder for speculation.

In one instance during the Thursday edition of The Lead With Jake Tapper, CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin commented on the air that reports that Flanagan had registered domain names for several gay porn websites in 2007 and 2008 was "just another disturbing twist."

On CNN'S The Situation Room,anchor Wolf Blitzer turned to a colleague, out anchor Don Lemon, and asked him, "What's your reaction when you hear all of this?" It's not clear if CNN put Lemon in that position to represent "the gay perspective," which would be as wrong as asking Lemon to react to Flanagan's slaying of two white people as a fellow African-American.

Without defending Flanagan's heinous act, Lemon quickly countered what our sibling magazine Outcalled "the dangerous link between violence, instability, and homosexuality that his network has been, knowingly or not, perpetuating":

"Well, I think the gay porn site is something -- to me, I don't really see the relevance of it."

"I don't want to gay-shame him. There's nothing wrong with being gay."

Flanagan's ownership of websites is nothing strange, Lemon said, noting that Dan Abrams, formerly of ABC, started a website of his own. When Blitzer countered that Abrams's site doesn't feature gay porn, Lemon fired back:

"There's no difference, though. They're both legal. If Dan Abrams or anyone else wanted to start a gay porn site, as long as they're abiding by the law, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. You may look down on it and judge it, but there's nothing illegal about it. I don't see why it's relevant in this particular case."

Blitzer's response: "Fair enough."

The media watchdog group Media Matters accused CNN of "repeatedly and needlessly" mentioning Flanagan's history of registering gay porn websites as evidence that he was unstable and disturbed. The report by Carlos Maza went on to explain why this tendency is so harmful.

"Injecting details about Flanagan's unrelated sexual history in reports about the shooting has the effect of associating homosexuality with deviancy, mental instability, and violence in the minds of viewers."

A British tabloid, The Telegraph, took that a step further into an antigay Twilight Zone with "exclusive pictures and video footage" from Flanagan's apartment, including "posters that appear to be of male pin-ups."

Worst of all, the paperreported, "Police reportedly confiscated a gay pride flag. They also found 'many' sex toys, which may have 'human material' on them, the source told this newspaper."

The discovery of that flag, noted Media Matters, boosted an effort by right-wing media to suggest "that Flanagan's homosexuality is somehow linked to his decision to murder two people." One site called the LGBT Pride banner a "rainbow hate-flag."

"Without an explanation of how Flanagan's sexual interests are relevant to this week's brutal shooting," Maza concluded, "CNN reinforced a right-wing trope about homosexuality and violence without adding to its substantive reporting on the shooting.

Click here to read TheTelegraph's report in its entirety, and you can watch CNN's report on Flanagan's gay porn sites, along with Don Lemon's analysis of their relevance, below.

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