Mainstream Press Swerve and Dodge Regarding Nashville Shooter as Activists and Politicians Spar on Transgender Issues

News outlets have been tiptoeing around the subject of the shooter’s gender.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department via AP
Bodycam footage of police responding to an active shooting at the Covenant School at Nashville. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department via AP

How to describe the gender of the now-deceased Nashville school shooter has quickly emerged as the latest controversy regarding transgender issues, with major media sources tiptoeing around the issue, often in tortured fashion, by avoiding gender pronouns as much as possible. 

At the same time, trans activists are calling out what they say is bias against the trans community while prominent conservatives such as Donald Trump, Jr. and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene are invoking the tragic shooting as they denounce some positions of the trans rights movement.

At a press conference on Monday, the chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, John Drake, announced that the shooter did “identify as transgender.” Despite the disclosure, many media outlets continued to refer to Audrey Hale, the shooter, as a woman, leading some corners of social media to denounce the mainstream media for “deadnaming,” 

In a statement, the Trans Resistance Network called the Nashville shooting “not one tragedy, but two.” After a short statement offering condolences to the family and friends of the six victims, the statement calls on the media to stop “pandering to the Right.”

“We remind the news media to respect the self-identified pronouns of transgender individuals that come across your desk,” the statement reads. “We also urge you to avoid pandering to those individuals on the Right who will use this double tragedy to foment fear and terror of transgender people.”

Many media outlets continue to refer to the shooter as “Audrey,” the shooter’s given name, which the trans community decries as “deadnaming” — wherein one refers to a transgender person by the name chosen by their parents rather than the name the person chooses for themselves. 

Some conservative social media influencers, journalists, and podcast hosts have used the tragedy to denounce the mainstream media and some trans activists for their stances on trans issues.

Ms. Greene also weighed in on the shooting and coverage of the killer’s gender. She implied that hormone treatment could be responsible for the shooting. 

News outlets have also seemed to be dancing around the subject of the shooter’s gender. The New York Times, in an addendum to their reporting on the rarity of female mass shooters, pointed out that officials used the pronouns “she” and “her” to refer to Hale. 

Newsweek seemed to blame the state of Tennessee for banning drag shows and “gender-affirming care,” suggesting the possibility that politicians in the state had brought this on themselves. One CNN analyst believed the shooter’s gender to be irrelevant in this case, despite the fact it appears the shooter could have harbored some resentment against the school. “Pronouns do not kill children, people with guns kill children,” CNN’s Juliette Kayyem said on Monday. 

ABC News anchor Terry Moran also seemed to imply that the shooting was an almost logical outgrowth of Tennessee’s prohibition on drag shows that cater to minors and surgery or hormone therapies for minors who seek to change their gender, despite the fact that the shooter was 28 years old. 

“The shooter identified herself as a transgender person,” Mr. Moran said on Monday. “The state of Tennessee earlier this month passed and the governor signed a bill that banned transgender medical care for minors as well as a law that prohibited adult entertainment as well as male and female impersonators after a series of drag show controversies in that state.”

On Tuesday morning, CBS Detroit said it was still “attempting” to determine whether or not the shooter was transgender, despite the announcement from Nashville police. USA Today wrote that the police had “misidentified” the shooter’s transgender status. 

The way in which legacy media outlets cover transgender issues has come under fire from the left in recent months, highlighted by a recent letter published by contributors to the New York Times. 

In February, hundreds of contributors penned a letter to the Times’ associate managing editor for standards, Philip Corbett, about “editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non⁠-⁠binary, and gender nonconforming people.”

“The Times has in recent years treated gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language, while publishing reporting on trans children that omits relevant information about its sources,” they wrote.

The paper’s executive editor, Joseph Kahn, promptly responded in defense of his reporters, their research, and their professionalism. “It is not unusual for outside groups to critique our coverage or rally supporters to seek to influence our journalism,” Mr. Kahn wrote in a memo to staff. “In this case, however, members of our staff and contributors to The Times joined the effort.”

“We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.”

On Monday, the Daily Beast reported that staff reporters who signed the letter are being called into meetings with top editors where they are being reprimanded.


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