As right-wing media figures weaponized the gender identity of the Covenant School shooter to demonize transgender people, some ran with a reckless and baseless claim that documents left by the shooter were an anti-Christian, “radical” trans tirade.
Following the March 27 shooting at a Christian private school in Nashville, Tennessee, where 6 people were killed, police announced that they had recovered documents from the shooter's car and home and labeled them a “manifesto” that would be turned over to the FBI for analysis.
Media ethicists have warned against framing a mass shooter's writings as a “manifesto” as it could overstate, glorify, or misconstrue a shooter's motivations and beliefs, or give undue legitimacy to hateful ideologies.
On April 7, Tennessee Board of Investigation Director David Rausch told local media that the shooter “did not write about specific political, religious or social issues,” which are more typically included in a manifesto. Instead, local reporting indicated that the shooter’s writings were “rambling” and indicated “no clear motive.”
Rather than waiting for reliable reporting to surface during the investigation into the shooting, right-wing media outlets spared no time in framing the documents as a “manifesto” and assuming without evidence that they contained radical anti-Christian views. With no additional details about the documents released, right-wing figures have also speculated that the FBI is covering up or doctoring the supposed “manifesto” in an attempt to suppress information that is “inconvenient” for Democrats.
Sensationalizing the shooter as a “trans activist” who wrote an anti-Christian screed
- On March 29, before any details had emerged about the contents of the shooter’s writings, Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime host Jesse Watters alleged that, “if you read the manifesto, you will know whether this was trans-motivated, a hate crime against Christians.”
- On March 29, Liz Wheeler, host of The Liz Wheeler Show and notorious right-wing commentator, blamed “radical transgender groups” for the shooting, stating that they “don't want this manifesto released is because they know what's inside it — they know that it's anti-Christian bigotry begot of queer theory fueled by hormone therapy.”
- On March 28, Tucker Carlson pushed the same anti-trans conspiracy on his Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, stating that it is “obvious” that “the trans movement is targeting Christians, including with violence.”
- On April 7, OutKick’s OutKick the Show host Clay Travis questioned, “Why do we not still have that trans manifesto? I ask because the Biden administration has mostly pretended that six Christians were not murdered based on, I believe, a targeting of them for their Christian identity.”
- After calling the killer a “mentally disturbed woman” who “kill[ed] Christian school children” on the April 1 episode of One America News Network’s Weekly Briefing, host Chanel Rion argued that “you don't need a PhD to have an idea about what's probably in” the manifesto, later calling transgender identity “a mental disorder.”
- As a guest on the March 31 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, conservative radio host Buck Sexton baselessly speculated that, “the Democrat-aligned media” would spin the narrative once “you actually get to see if this person was a radicalized member of the transgender community who was committing an act of domestic terrorism … into rhetoric in the media about trans genocide for example, or about these state laws that are erasing trans people.”
Speculating about FBI covering up or doctoring the writings
- On March 31, attorney Paul Mauro mentioned on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom that he was “skeptical” as to why the “manifesto” was not yet released and questioned what was “in this stuff that it has to be analyzed by federal authorities first before we can reveal what's in it?” Despite Nashville police chief John Drake claiming he did not read the shooter's writings in their entirety, Mauro also speculated that, “of course he read the manifesto. Because you have to see if there was indicia in there if there were other activities or other perpetrators to be apprehended. The first thing you do is start to scrub the perp to see, is anything else out there. And the idea that they didn't look at it belies belief.”
- In an April 10 conversation with Alex Jones on Louder with Crowder, Steven Crowder asserted that “they haven't released it [the manifesto] yet because the FBI is still writing it.”
- On April 2, political commentator Monica Crowley tweeted, “The Nashville shooter's manifesto is with the FBI, in the same place as the name of the SCOTUS leaker and the Epstein client list.”
- FrankSpeech host Emerald Robinson also pushed a similar conspiracy in an April 3 tweet, suggesting that, “The FBI probably put the Nashville killer’s manifesto in the same safe as the Epstein client list, Hunter Biden’s laptop, Ashley Biden’s diary, Huma Abedin’s laptop, Seth Rich’s laptop, Obama’s school records, Hillary Clinton’s server….”
- On April 7, right-wing Twitter account Catturd argued that, “The fact the FBI refuses to release the manifesto of the trans murderer who targeted and slaughtered 6 Christians including 3 children ... tells you everything you need to know about the corrupt, politicized, rotten to the core Christopher Wray's FBI.”
- Former Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones also implied an FBI cover-up in a tweet dated April 2: “Will the Trans murderer Audrey/Aiden Hale of the #Nashville6 hate crime manifesto be scrub by the @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept before it’s made public? Where is the #DobbsLeaker when we need him/her?”
- Alt-right political activist Jack Posobiec took to his TruthSocial account on March 30 and stated that, “The Nashville police told us the shooter had a manifesto. The FBI took the manifesto. The FBI said they'll release the manifest eventually. Suddenly Trump is indicted. They expect you to forget about the manifesto.”