The False Canonization of Matthew Shepard

The story of the anti-gay hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 caused a nation to see "homophobia" under every corner. The only problem is that the story was a lie.

This week we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew Shepard.

You may recall the story. Shepard was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime when he was tortured and grievously wounded, strung up on a fence in the winter cold outside Laramie, Wyoming, twenty-four years ago. 

On the evening of October 6, 1998, Shepard met up with “two strangers” at a Laramie bar. They offered Shepard a ride home but instead took him to a remote area, robbed him, beat him with a pistol, and left him strung up, splayed Christlike on a fence. He died in the hospital six days later. The iconography was powerful and irresistible.  

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Shortly after leaving Shepard, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson got into another meth-fueled punch-up and cops pulled them over. In the truck, cops found a bloody gun, along with the shoes and wallet belonging to Matthew Shepard. Even before Shepard died six days later, Shepard’s friends claimed it was an anti-gay hate crime. They told this to the cops, and they spread this among the media. Even McKinney’s girlfriend said McKinney acted on “gay panic” after Shepard supposedly came onto him. The homophobia claim caught on like wildfire that burned the whole country. 

As homosexual journalist Andrew Sullivan said, “I think a lot of gay people, when they first heard of that horrifying event, felt sort of punched in the stomach. I mean it kind of encapsulated all our fear of being victimized.” 

It made the Time Magazine cover: “The War Over Gays: Murder in Laramie, Changing Gay Politics, Do Hate-Crime Laws Work, Showdown Over Gay Marriage.” The cover photo was the fence where Shepard was strung up. 

Celebrities lined up to speak and to sing about Shepard’s death, including Elton John and Melissa Ethridge. Lady Gaga sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” and added Matthew’s name. 

The murder of Matthew Shepard came at a useful time for the homosexual establishment. The narrative fueled the call for federal hate crime legislation. It fed into the debate about the military rule “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It gave oxygen to the call for homosexual marriage. As Andrew Sullivan wrote, “…he was the perfect symbol: young, pretty, tiny, he presented to the world as the most acceptable form of young gay man, almost a boy.” 

It led to the creation of something called The Laramie Project, a play about his killing that became one of the most performed pieces in America and has been performed in schools all over the country. 

Here is the problem. The narrative was completely made up. It is a lie. Most people on the ground in Laramie knew this. But it was not revealed to the rest of us until years later when gay journalist Stephen Jimenez published his deeply reported book The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, a book you cannot now find on Amazon (there is a reprint published by Andrew Sullivan, but the original is not there). Jimenez started out to create a sympathetic documentary about Shepard. He interviewed more than 100 people; and he quickly found the story we had heard was false. 

The real story is that Matthew Shepard was a meth dealer and user. He knew the men who beat him to death in a methamphetamine frenzy. In fact, Aaron McKinney was his sometimes sex partner. They met that night over a drug deal that went bad. 

When his book came out in 2013, the hominteriate went after Jimenez hammer and tongs. The money-grubbing Matthew Shepard Foundation, created by Matthew Shepard’s mom, said, “Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law.”

The Shepard hoax puts one in mind of the Orlando nightclub shooting that was supposedly committed by a homophobe looking to kill gay men. This was a hoax advanced by homophile Jesuit James Martin, and it inspired him to write his book Building a Bridge. The Orlando nightclub shooter had no idea Pulse was a gay club. His search history showed that he was driving around looking for any nightclub to invade. 

It makes one think of the claims by the anti-Christian Human Rights Campaign that there is an epidemic of dress-wearing men being killed by transphobes. There is no proof for such a claim, but that does not stop the ideologues from advancing their cause using lies. 

The Left lives on lies. It is the air they breathe. Norma McCorvey of Roe v. Wade fame was never raped. The NASCAR noose never existed. Jussie Smollett faked his own attack. As Andrew Sullivan later admitted, gay men are in much greater danger from meth addiction than they are from red-state bigots. 

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth pulls up its pants. And often the truth never really gets its pants on. Ask almost anyone if Matthew Shepard was killed for homophobia. Practically everyone will say yes. 

And if you live near Washington, D.C., on this Feast of Matthew Shepard, you can venerate his ashes inurned at the National Cathedral, nestled among the likes of Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson. 

A poor young man died 24 years ago, but the false memory of his death still lingers on.

[Image Credit: Gina van Hoof, Matthew Shepard Foundation website]

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