Orlando gunman Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub last month, was frank with 911 operators about his political and religious allegiance to ISIS.
But then another narrative appeared.
Some witnesses and victims alleged that they saw Mateen at Pulse Night Club on previous occasions, although it is a two hour drive from Mateen’s house. Others said they interacted with him on gay dating apps and a man even came forward claiming he had a two-month long relationship with Mateen.
Commentators seized on the idea that Mateen was a closeted gay man, and that his rampage was predominately driven by frustrated homosexuality, manifesting itself in homophobia, rather than an attack motivated by his Muslim faith:
Ok @cnn. This MIGHT have been Islamic terrorism. But it DEFINITELY was a targeted attack on gays! And you're totally downplaying that! ?
— Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) June 12, 2016
The Washington Post op-ed: “Orlando massacre: We can’t ignore America’s homegrown homophobia”
Newsweek op-ed: “Orlando Attack Happened Because or Hatred Toward LGBT People”
Teen Vogue: “The Orlando Shooting Is Proof That American Culture Fuels Homophobia”
In a heated Sky News interview, British journalist Owen Jones stormed off a TV news set when his fellow journalists didn’t concede it was an explicitly homophobic attack, as Jones argued.
Jones, who is openly gay, told the other journalists:
“You don’t understand this because you’re not gay, okay?”
It is true that ISIS brutally persecutes gay men, so that may have been a consideration of Mateen’s when he picked where to carry out the rampage. ISIS executes men accused of homosexuality, often by throwing them from building roofs. If the fall does not kill the victims, the crowd at the foot of the building proceeds to stone them to death.
But some commentators, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, separated Islamism and homophobia as dual motivations:
Lynch: “People often act out of more than one motivation. This was clearly an act of terror and an act of hate.”
CNN op-ed: “Was Orlando shooting terror or homophobia? Yes.”
New York Daily News op-ed: “Radical Islam’s loathing for gays fueled madman to carry out Orlando terrorist attack”
Now the FBI is throwing cold water on the theory that Mateen specifically targeted Pulse because it was a gay nightclub, much less that Mateen was gay himself.
As The Washington Post originally reported:
“Officials said there is no evidence thus far that Mateen, 29, was gay or that his attack was motivated by homophobia.
The FBI, however, has been unable to verify that Mateen used gay dating apps and instead has found evidence that Mateen was cheating on his wife with other women.
Officials said there is nothing to suggest that he attempted to cover up his tracks by deleting files. They also added he did not make gay slurs during the shooting spree inside the club, based on witnesses.”
The FBI also noted that during his multiple 911 calls Mateen explicitly declared allegiance to ISIS but did not make homophobic comments.
The investigation is ongoing.