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Right-wing media personalities and far-right figures have doubled down on anti-LGBT+ rhetoric in the wake of a mass shooting inside a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub that left five dead and at least 18 others injured.
Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for Donald Trump, condemned what she characterised as “the left’s narrative” about the shooting that points blame at Christians who “hate homosexual and transgender individuals” and “somehow that ‘hate’ led to the shooting.”
Yet within the same Tuesday broadcast of her The Jenna Ellis Show, she alleges that the five people who were killed inside Club Q gave “no evidence at all that they were Christians” and that they “are now reaping the consequences of having eternal damnation.”
“And that is far, far greater – we should be having that conversation,” she added. “Instead of just the tragedy of what happened to the body, we need to be talking about what happened to the soul and the fact that they are now in eternal separation from our lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
Her remarks added to a chorus of right-wing media commentary and far-right influencers who have amplified inflammatory anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric even after the mass shooting, echoing a wave of politicised harassment aimed at LGBT+ people in the weeks and months that preceded it.
Ms Ellis, who has amplified the former president’s ongoing lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, has been ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating Mr Trump’s efforts to illegally interfere with the election’s outcome. Following his legal team’s spurious attempts to reject the results, she has repeatedly invoked Christianity to attack LGBT+ people.
She addressed criticism on Twitter, asking “How am I judging them?”
“The Bible says if anyone does not repent of their sin and accept Christ as Lord, they are not saved,” she added. “I said there is no evidence these [five] were saved, so *assuming* they were not, they are now eternally separated from Christ. Listen to what I actually said.”
This week, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson hosted a guest who said mass shootings would continue “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Mr Carlson also mentioned several children’s hospitals that have received bomb threats for providing gender-affirming care.
On Wednesday, he sought to discredit a journalist who warned against anti-LBGBT+ rhetoric in right-wing media and elevated a baseless conspiracy theory that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “hid” and “lied” about being gay.
Conservative activist Rob Smith also appeared on Fox Business this week, saying that as a gay man he would often visit Club Q when he lived in Colorado Springs. But he criticised what he called a “far-left LGBT activist contingent that will stomp over the blood of these dead bodies in order to push their agenda” as right-wing figures “[speak] up against drag queen story hours, against the sexualization and grooming of children”.
Right-wing media and activists have falsely conflated drag performance with sex acts and used the term “grooming” or “groomer” to falsely smear LGBT+ people and their advocates as paedophiles.
Mr Smith also warned viewers against reevaluating their prejudices and to resist being “emotionally blackmail[ed] … into thinking that the tragedy that happened is somehow your fault because you spoke up against this.”
Anti-trans activist and Daily Wire contributor Matt Walsh also claimed that “the left” is trying to “blackmail us into accepting the abuse of children” and accused people who connect antiLGBT+ rhetoric with the mass shooting as “demented freaks”.
He posted a video to his 1.9 million YouTube subscribers titled “Why The Left Is So Desperate To Expose Children To Drag Queens,” asking “if it’s causing this much chaos and violence, why do you insist on continuing to do it? … Is it that hard to not crossdress in front of kids? Is the compulsion that overwhelming?”
To his 1.4 million Twitter followers, right-wing influencer Tim Pool baselessly asserted that “Club Q had a grooming event” and asked “how do [sic] prevent the violence and stop the grooming?”
In the aftermath of the Saturday night massacre, the Colorado Springs LGBT+ community and city officials have vowed to support the victims and their families. Mayor John Suthers said the city is “determined to make sure that the actions of a lone gunman don’t define our community.”
A report from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) found 124 incidents of anti-LGBT+ protests and threats in 47 targeting drag events so far this year.
The majority of those incidents occurred during Pride events in June and into September, October and November.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO GLAAD, criticised right-wing media for the ongoing demonization of LGBT+ people in right-wing media.
“No one is holding them accountable for all of the misinformation they’re spreading, but then we need to prove we’re not what they say we are,” she told NBC News.
A separate report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino found that reports of hate crimes against LGBT+ people in major cities increased by 51 per cent in 2021.